“How Can I Become a Better Pharmacist in the Future?”

August 4, 2015 • Pharmacy Careers • Views: 4461

I recently received a very nice email from a pharmacy student who found my blog online.  It is always encouraging to get emails from readers, particularly when they ask a good question.  I asked her if I could use her question as a blog post.  She graciously agreed.

Here is her question to me (with minor editing to remove any identifying information):

“I am a rising P2 student at [XYZ] University. I recently came across your blog while reading more about pharmacy this summer. I have completed my community IPPE at Walgreens and I learned a lot. However, seeing as I am an international student and I cannot work, what would you recommend I do to help me become a better pharmacist in the future?”

What a great question.  I have a special concern for our current pharmacy students.  They have so many great opportunities in front of them, with the possibility of doing very specific residencies in almost any specialty imaginable.  But at the same time they are part of an enormous bolus dose of students being injected into our profession with an oversupply situation already in existence in many areas. 

So what should a student be doing right now, particularly a student who cannot work right now due to their international visa status? 

The interesting thing about that question is that I would answer it very similarly regardless of what “type” of pharmacist was asking.  In other words, I would say pretty much the same thing to a current student, a new grad, a mid-career professional or a near retirement pharmacist.  The advice doesn’t have to change much.  What you need to become a better pharmacist is, in many ways, the same things that I NEED to become a better pharmacist too.

So what are those things?

I would offer 5 suggestions to you (in no particular order of importance):

First – Be an active networker.  By that I mean be very deliberate in your efforts to build your number of pharmacy contacts through every means necessary.  Obviously network with your school faculty and fellow students.  But also make sure to network effectively at every rotation, every event and any professional activities or organizations you belong to.  Network online also on places like LinkedIn and Twitter.  By “network” I specifically mean to get contact information from many fellow professionals and keep in touch with them from time to time.   Keep your contacts in an organized spreadsheet or contact management system.  We learn so much from other people in our network.  Associate with smart, winsome and successful professionals who are doing what you would like to do.  Take them out for lunch.  Buy them a coffee.  Remember, “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room!” 

Second – Be active online.  I mentioned LinkedIn and Twitter above.  Use these to interact PROFESSIONALLY with others.  If you are looking for a starting list of some pharmacists to follow on Twitter , try @jasonpoquette (yeah, that is me), then expand out to many others!  But there are other ways to be active online too.  Create a blog around some topic of professional interest.  Comment professionally and politely on the blogs of other healthcare professionals.  HERE are a few blogs to start with.  And don’t forget about Facebook.  You can start a page around a pharmacy topic as well.  Communication will help you grow as a pharmacist, and the online world is waiting for your contributions!

Third – Be an engaged learner.  Don’t just show up to class and get what you need to pass the test.  Be engaged.  Take advantage of your professors and preceptors by asking  them questions about anything you want to learn more about.  During this process you will quickly discover who you can count on to deliver great, meaningful information to you.  Maybe one of these great teachers would be willing to help you as a personal mentor?  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Pick  someone who has actually done what you would like to do.  And don’t stop learning.  Want to learn about something that isn’t taught in school?  Great!  Buy a book or take a CE or learn it online.  But by all means learn it! 

Fourth – Be a self-improvement reader.  This one may surprise you.  But if you want to be a “great” pharmacist, you really need to maximize your own personal potential to do great things and accomplish big goals.  Many of your peers will just make it through pharmacy school and get jobs.  Good for them.  But I take it from your question that you want more.  Awesome!  So read the type of books in the “motivation” and “leadership” and “self improvement” sections of the library to really stir you up to reach for big goals.  Authors like Tony Robbins and John Maxwell and Stephen Covey and Brian Tracy to name just a few.

Fifth – Be positive.  Do you want to be a great pharmacist?  I find it to be almost universally true that the professionals who focus on nothing but the most negative aspects of their life and careers tend to stay right at the bottom of the fish tank.  Make a choice to be positive and encouraging. Take total responsibility for your attitude and your accomplishments. Aim high.  Don’t quit.  Get back up and try again and again.  As the saying goes, “your attitude will determine your altitude.”  

Okay.  Those are the 5 things that I think you should focus on right now to be a better pharmacist in the future.  Yes, there are a lot of things you still have to learn.  Learn them.  But keep the big picture in view.  I wish you the best. Reach out to me if I can help you along the way. 

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Author: Jason Poquette