Wow. It is hard to believe the 2015 school year has come to an end. As someone who has had the privilege of serving as a preceptor for many years, I always get pretty excited about graduation. It is a big step. It marks the close of an extremely difficult, often overwhelming chapter of your lives. It flew by. Really. And trust me, the years only go by faster the older you get. You made it! Congratulations!
It is also sort of a scary time. Formal training, for many of you, has come to an end. The NABPLEX is just around the corner. Some of you will head off to residencies. Others will be preparing for your first job as a licensed pharmacist. It all starts to get real very quickly (including the real work of paying back your student loans!). Many of your will be relocating back to “home” or maybe off to a new area you have never lived before.
There’s no way in a single blog post to communicate everything that my 20+ years of pharmacy experience would like you to know before you begin the next step in your life. There is a lot about your new career as a pharmacist you are going to have to learn on your own. But I would like to share just a few thoughts with you. Add them to the collection of advice I’m sure you are getting at this time.
MY 10 TIPS:
Advice #1: Be a patient-focused pharmacist. Whatever setting you find yourself in, there will be a TON of new things to learn. New software systems, new policies, new people to meet and a new protocol to follow. Somehow, through the tangled web of endless pressures and politics, try to keep the patient at the forefront of your mind. Whatever job setting you end up in – try to put yourself in the patient’s shoes every day. What does that patient need? How can you help them? Sometimes it seems that our healthcare systems (whether hospitals, clinics, pharmacies or health plans) can be very unfriendly to patients. Be different. Put the patient first.
Advice #2: Don’t stop being a student. I know – you are soooo ready to be done with school. And yes, for many of you the “formal” training has come to a close. But there is so much more to learn about within this profession. There will, of course, be the constant flood of new drugs into the market. But it is more than that. Every day keep learning how to succeed at your particular job just a little more. Now that the pressures of exams is ending, you have time to pursue at your own pace some areas of knowledge you have been wanting to learn about. Keep up a regular habit of studying and sharing what you are learning with others.
Advice #3: Find a mentor and use them. This doesn’t have to be some sort of formal arrangement. What I am talking about is someone, another pharmacist typically, that you can bounce things off of. Do you have a preceptor that was especially helpful? Do you know of another pharmacist who has been in the profession long enough to have some experience to share? Reach out to them and say something like “Hi ______, I’m about to start a new job. Would you mind if I bounced a question off of you from time to time?” Most seasoned pharmacists will be happy to share what they know. If you can’t find someone local, then feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to help you.
Advice #4: Manage your career reputation correctly from day 1. Be professional. Be on time. Be courteous to other co-workers. Give every task your best. Every day you show up to work you are creating your reputation. What will your reputation as a pharmacist be? Will you be the one who is always cranky? Will you be the one who freaks out with every little change that goes on in the workplace? Will you be the complainer who constantly bemoans his existence and his job? Will you be the problem solver or the problem maker? You control your reputation to a large degree.
Advice #5: Build your network. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend you start to work on building your network of pharmacy-connections. What I mean by that is your list of contacts, and some mechanism to keep in touch. LinkedIn is a great resource, and if you don’t have an account there yet, I recommend you begin to build one. But even in your day to day work you will be meeting new people, all of whom may be great resources both now and in the future. Get contact information. Shoot them an email from time to time. Talk about your job and listen to them about theirs. Use a simple spreadsheet if you like. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
Advice #6: Stay humble. You’re not superwoman or superman, and no one expects you to be. There is nothing more painful than to work along side someone who is quite sure they know everything. You don’t. I don’t. A humble person is far more approachable than a proud person, and therefore will be available to help far more people in the end.
Advice #7: Remember it is YOUR license. You took a long time to earn this license. Be careful with it. This is especially true if you are working in a job where you are personally responsible for checking orders that go directly to a patient. I refer to this as “working on the front lines.” Don’t ever feel you have to apologize for verifying a correct dose, checking a drug interaction, making that extra phone call just to be safe. If you are in a work situation that doesn’t encourage you to be safe and careful…be careful anyway. And start looking for another job.
Advice #8: Don’t be limited by your job description. Are there other creative ways you can exercise your profession in addition to the expected duties you will perform every day? How about giving a talk at the local senior center? How about writing a blog? Can you look into becoming a preceptor? You spent way too much time learning way too many things to confine all that knowledge into any one job. Be creative.
Advice #9: Be a team-player. Pharmacists in almost every work setting are a part of a team. So work on your team-building skills. For some this will come more naturally than others. But for starters, work on complimenting others on your team, respecting their views and keeping confidences. When interacting with other healthcare professionals be respectful (especially when they may have made an error or are simply wrong about something). Be a resource. If someone asks you for information, get back to them.
Advice #10: Don’t stop dreaming. Remember when you had that dream about becoming a pharmacist? Well, that dream came true. But don’t stop dreaming now that you have your license in your hand. Eleanor Roosevelt said it well “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.“
©Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, quotes and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary with appropriate and specific links to the original content.