5 Reasons Why Pharmacists are Miserable
and how to fix that.
We’re not all dissatisfied, but many are. Here’s 5 reasons why I think that is.
1. We get all the blame and none of the credit.
Being the first point of contact means a lot of things. Good and bad. We get to do regular follow-ups. We get to be involved with their lives if we choose to. We can be the first to demo cool point-of-care devices. We also have to deal with a lot of complaints. Customer service. It feels like we’re the customer service department of healthcare. If anyone makes a mistake, we’re encouraged to be as vague as possible and apologize for it. We’re also expected to catch all the mistakes before they hurt anyone. The worst part is that we get none of the credit. We can’t exactly shit on the doctors and nurse practitioners who prescribe the wrong dose/drug because it compromises patient-provider trust. Instead, we ask them to wait as we clarify “something”. We end up looking slow, inconvenient, inefficient, annoying, and other fun adjectives we’ve all heard used to describe us.
2. Following orders we disagree with.
Remember all those drugs the elderly shouldn’t be getting? They all get prescribed them and there’s nothing you can do about it. I know there are exceptions but a lot of times doctors will not make a change simply because of ego or habit. They learned decades ago that a drug is good for something before all the post-market studies and would keep prescribing an inferior product out of habit, arrogance, or ignorance. Since you don’t have veto power, you’re stuck doing something you don’t agree with and you can’t do anything about it.
3. Unsatisfactory wages.
I’m not saying it’s unfair. Everyone thinks they should be paid more. All I’m saying is in comparison to “the good ol’ days”, our wages have been cut substantially (half, in some areas). There’s a huge difference and it’s only getting worse. Big chain pharmacies are trying to make mid-30’s a norm in Toronto/GTA. The wage isn’t terrible compared to other jobs, but I’m sure we all went into pharmacy school hoping to make more than “not terrible”. Especially with the housing market nowadays, mid-30’s is good but not good enough.
4. Low potential for growth.
You make $80,000 your first year (optimistic estimate) and retire making $120,000 (again, optimistic). You can’t deny that you start off respectable, but the feeling of advancement generally brings more fulfillment than a small head start.
5. Expectations differ from reality.
Pharmacy schools do not keep it real enough with us. We get trained as if we’re all going to be hospital pharmacists. In reality, the majority of us aren’t going to be hospital pharmacists. You’re in for a huge surprise if you think you’re working patients up in the community or industry. The majority of us won’t ever write a care plan — ever. We need formal training on leadership, team work, time management, customer service, and etc. Unfortunately, we’re not told we need these skills to succeed — so we find out the hard way.
What’s the solution?
Take some risks. Like point #4 states, the worst you can ever do is around $80,000 a year. That’s still a great plan B. Why not use your degree to leverage alternative opportunities? There are consulting firms, data companies, tech start-ups, and many more opportunities that require your expertise. You’ll feel valued because pharmacists haven’t saturated these industries and you can always go back to dispensing if you want. Start looking!