I've been a retail pharmacist for 4 yrs but would like a change. I was thinking about hospital but have heard that once you've been out for awhile it's tough to get back in. Is that true?
Dear Retail Pharmacist:
Yes. It’s true that it’s difficult to switch to hospital pharmacy after working in the retail sector so long, and vice versa. It’s important that you are deciding on the change for a good reason. Reasons such as boredom with your current job or working with a dysfunctional regional store manager may not be the best reason to switch to the hospital setting.
To be a hospital pharmacist, there are a few things that you should know and be willing to accept:
1) Fast-pace environment: although there are no difficult customers, there are difficult physicians and nurses who will call incessantly for their orders to be filled.
2) Variable hours: hospitals never close, even on holidays. All staff members take turns working holidays and rotating shifts, from morning to graveyard shift (some hospitals don’t have graveyard, but have swing shifts which end late).
3) Salary: generally speaking, hospital pharmacists make slightly less than their retail counterparts.
4) Inventory: in addition to sending out oral medications, intravenous medications, antibiotics, and chemotherapies are heavily compounded and dispensed.
5) Clinical knowledge: since the environment is so fast-paced, it is essential that the pharmacist willingly stays ‘on top of their game’ by reading clinical journals and articles on a regular basis.
The great part about a hospital pharmacist is that the joy and excitement of saving patients’ lives, working with the medical team, and being an integral part of the patients’ lives are well worth it.
If you agree with the above, then it is worth applying and interviewing with the pharmacy director. In the meantime, update yourself on current therapies, consider getting CPR-certified, and do not let frustration or intimidation stand in your way. Although applicants with retail history require more hospital training, it is not a rule to overlook them. If hired, expect that you will be trained anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the facility. Once you can demonstrate competence, then you will be assigned to a work shift.
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