Career Advice in Pharmacy

I was asked to speak to an acquaintance because he  was considering a career in pharmacy. I was happy to help. After all, some pharmacy graduates eventually go into other career options because they realize they do not enjoy the work or they would like to do something else.  So it is always helpful to speak to someone who is actively doing the job to appreciate what’s rewarding and what’s challenging about being a pharmacist.

So I said, “Sure”. I felt qualified to talk because I have tried many different pharmacy options: community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry and government; I have even tried nuclear pharmacy which many people don’t know what it is about.  Anyways, I was eager to share my experiences, my thoughts and my perspectives of where the profession was heading.

He was also happy that I took the time to speak to him. So we started to chat, why he was interested in a pharmacy career, what he already knew and areas of uncertainties that he wanted to clarify. Somehow we started talking about salaries, benefits, vacation times, pensions and the conversation continued to focus on these aspects of the career. I tried to steer it back to the description of the actual job – because I thought it was important to fully understand the job, explaining the difference between community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy, their different training requirements, the time investment and the opportunities for job advancement or career growth.  But he kept bringing the conversation back to how much he would be making, potential for salary raise, specific details about the monetary benefits of the job.

After few exchanges of phone calls and email messages, I came to conclude  that he was only interested in how much money he would make as a pharmacist, not really interested in the professional aspect of the job. Don’t get me wrong – knowing how much money you make is important but for him to investigate this question to the extent he did, I found it both disturbing and frustrating.  There was no hint of wanting to pretend to help people, to improve their health, to do some greater good for the society.  Zippo!

Then I found myself in a very awkward position.  Our profession requires us all to uphold some ethical standards that I felt compelled to protect. So I tactfully and diplomatically told him that he might want to expand his career options. I told him that since he seemed to have an apt for numbers, projection of benefits and bottom lines, that maybe he should explore a career in sales and marketing.  We ended our discussion afterward.

I never heard from him again.




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My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permission. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

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