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It is graduation day!
For the past 6 or more years you have toiled, studied, lived on a meager income, sacrificed sleep and other comforts and may be even personal relationships. You have overcome financial and other challenges to reach this point. There were many anxious moments as you studied for exams and waited to see your grades. You often wondered whether this day will arrive — when you finally receive the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree (PharmD) and earn the opportunity to sit for the pharmacy license exam; the gateway to a lucrative pharmacist job.
Congratulations new pharmacist graduates; the long awaited moment has arrived. Your family, friends, professors, and preceptors are proud of you. Most of all you should be proud of your accomplishments. Pharmacists all over the world welcome you to a respected profession of healthcare providers charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of medications to mitigate and cure illness.
Enjoy this day and savor every moment because you have earned it. You are now crossing into a new chapter in your life and career — pharmacy school days have ended and a new journey as a pharmacist is beginning. As you embark on this new journey here is some advice to help you gain the most benefit from your educational investment.
Learning is Not Over
College may be over for most of you, however, learning continues. The most important skill you learned from college is how to learn and master new challenges. To be really good at your trade keep up with practice trends and seek every opportunity to hone your skills so you can provide the best care possible and remain relevant. Neglect your professional development and you will run the risk of becoming obsolete. Don't become the unhappy pharmacist.
Embrace and Prepare for Change
You are entering the pharmacy profession at a time of change in the profession and in healthcare. There are many forces that are shaping the practice of pharmacy, defining how pharmacists will contribute in healthcare. Keep abreast of new laws and new practice opportunities. Do not be afraid of change — rather welcome and explore different ways of using your PharmD training. Be an agent of change and blaze a new direction for the pharmacy profession. Those who take advantage of new practice opportunities usually discover long - term career growth and job satisfaction. Those who are slow to adapt miss out on the tremendous opportunity that pharmacy offers.
Consider the Road Less Traveled
Over the last few years employment for traditional pharmacist roles in retail and hospital settings took a hit due to the economic down turn and the pressures of pharmacist supply versus demand. Many have preached demise of the pharmacy profession, citing how long it takes to find a traditional pharmacist job and the number of graduates from our pharmacy schools. While there is no arguing that the employment landscape has shifted new opportunities are also emerging and there is demand in nontraditional pharmacy jobs. Emerging opportunities include Medication Therapy Management and Tele-pharmacy. Pharmacist provider status in several states also will lead to new and exciting ways for pharmacist to be reimbursed. There are also opportunities in nontraditional sectors such as academia, FDA, healthcare management, and the pharmaceutical industry. The explosion of healthcare information on the internet provides unique opportunities for pharmacists.
The best strategy for new pharmacists is be flexible in job location and type of pharmacy job. New graduates should plan to obtain additional credentials to qualify for more advanced practice jobs or nontraditional roles. Give yourself at least two or three options for your first job.
Obtain Advanced Practice Skills
Are you completing a pharmacy residency, fellowship or other form of advanced training? If you are good for you. If you are not consider this, as there are more graduating pharmacists and pressure for pharmacists to provide more advanced care employers will demand more training and expertise. It is possible that in a few years the basic entry level pharmacist job will require completion of a residency. Those who want to take advantage of pharmacist provider status may need advanced training. Additional credentials expand your job options and maximize your chance of finding the right job (not just any job). Don't become obsolete this early in your career.
Avoid Financial Traps
You've been a starving student for several years and now that you have your first job you want to splurge and satisfy your pent up demand for material goods. Think twice and then some more before purchasing large ticket items that add to your long-term financial obligations. Your local luxury car dealer is all too willing to lock you into a car loan. Purchasing a home too early may also stretch your finances. If you have a large college loan to repay think even more before you buy that shiny new car. You can accumulate debt faster than your income will rise. Don't fall into a financial trap that robs you of your flexibility to change jobs or advance your career. The retail trap is real!
Develop a Career Plan
No one is going to manage your career for you. Your professional association will not manage your career for you. Commit to write down your 5 year career goals and review it every year. Ask yourself these questions:
Depending on your answers to these questions develop a career plan that helps you achieve your goals. The wonderful benefit of a PharmD are the many practice settings that employ PharmDs.
Think Like an Entrepreneur
If you don’t like where you live move. If you do not like your job get a different one. If you cannot find a job you like create your own! Entrepreneurs are born everyday and the pharmacy profession has many entrepreneurs. There is no secret or magic to it. It takes hard work, conviction, courage, a lucky break, time and a just do it attitude. You can be a healthcare consultant, own your own pharmacy, start an internet business, launch a pharmacy software company to name a few. The internet economy offers many opportunities for those willing to tinker and toil.
Can you identify problems that do not have a good solution? Can you identify areas of need that you can fill? Stop waiting for someone else to solve problems, solve the problem yourself and get paid by the person who has the problem.
Next time you utter the phrase “I wish there was_____” follow that with “what if I did_____” then “how” and “why not”. Now you are thinking like an entrepreneur!
Define what happiness means to you and what you want out of life. Go after it and you will achieve it.
Its been 19 years now since I graduated from pharmacy school. I have never regretted obtaining a pharmacy degree. In fact I feel privileged to be a member of this respected profession. Moreover, I believe the best is yet to come. Stay positive graduates and may you achieve your dreams and launch our profession into a new era!
More Articles by Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD