Taking the mental step from student pharmacist to licensed pharmacist is not something that happens overnight. Here, a pharmacist a few years out from graduation provides advice for soon to be pharmacists as they make their transition.
Authored By: Evan Lantz, Pharm.D., BCPS
One immutable quality of pharmacists, regardless of when they graduated, is the consistency with which they recall (often in abnormally evocative detail) their experiences in pharmacy school. They have the ability to recollect specific exam scores, their favorite (and least favorite) courses and professors, and can reminisce ad nauseam about romantic memories of pharmacy school.
It is evident that their time in pharmacy school is without doubt one of the most impactful formative periods in their personal and professional lives. For me, much of this impact was derived from being part of a collective where professors and student peers helped guide me, within a structured curriculum, toward our shared goal of becoming a pharmacist.
During pharmacy school interactions and assistance from others helped me succeed, but then what happened after it ended? What happened when that support was no longer there and everyone went their separate ways? Adapting to the autonomy of a post-didactic life was a struggle for me just as it is for many graduates.
For many new pharmacists their commencement procession amounts to a presumption of freedom from lectures, exams, countless evaluations, clinical rotations, vagrancy, and most importantly ramen noodles; however life after pharmacy school can be a stressful time in which many new responsibilities, obligations, and obstacles fill the void left by those staples of structured scholastic life.
As a recent pharmacy graduate I have experienced these new obstacles first-hand and offer to you a couple recommendations to help in your own transition from student to practitioner:
1. Keep your notes from pharmacy school – you never know when you will need them
Career paths can change quickly and transitions from one practice area to another can be challenging. Lecture notes from school can serve as a starting point when trying to orient oneself to a different area of pharmacy.
2. Experience is one of the best teachers
Listen to what more senior pharmacists have to say, they have likely run into the same problems you are experiencing and have valuable advice to lend. Take constructive criticism and use it to improve your performance. Communication with other pharmacists is an extremely valuable asset to you professionally, so with that in mind…
3. Network with healthcare providers of all specialties
Communication with pharmacists is invaluable to your ability to stay current in the ever-changing landscape of pharmacy; however, colleagues in other areas of expertise can offer unique knowledge and opportunities. Also, you never know when a professional contact will come in handy!
4. Further develop your skills of time management
No longer are there professors to set deadlines and your social group to remind you that a project is due. As you progress through your career, you will likely take on more responsibilities. The ability to prioritize, schedule tasks, set deadlines (and meet them!), and avoid procrastination are paramount to success in your career.
5. Learn to budget
Odds are you have just spent six to eight years depending on a very small, fixed sum of money for living expenses. Through this experience you have learned valuable lessons about how to spend, and more importantly how to save, your money. Keep in mind that the money you earn is not all yours, you must consider taxes, rent/mortgage, school loans, and other necessary costs before you can access any money you earn.
It is very important that you plan accordingly for your future; seek out a trusted financial advisor who can guide you through the financial aspects of your career and help you to maintain and grow your wealth.
6. Seek knowledge – no one is pushing you academically anymore, so push yourself
Seek specialized certification where possible. Acquiring and maintaining specialized certification will provide you an educational opportunity to both challenge yourself professionally and stay current practically.
7. Ensure you perform the yearly required amount of continuing education credits!
Don’t let something as simple as continuing pharmacy education credits stand in the way of your career. There are many CE vendors online that offer discounted or free CE, all you have to do is look.
Also be aware that each state may have particular requirements that must be met. For example, as of the writing of this article, the state of Florida requires that two of the thirty CE hours required for license renewal must be categorized as “medication errors” as a part of your pharmacist education.
8. Precept students
You were in their shoes once and you know what it is like to be a student during an advanced pharmacy practice experience or “rotation.” You probably also know the difference between a good preceptor and a great preceptor, so set the bar high and strive to provide students with the best educational experience you can.
9. Be positive
A positive disposition goes a long way toward career satisfaction and happiness overall. Take time to do things you enjoy whether it be running, reading for pleasure, or reconnecting with friends. Maintaining a good work-life balance is extremely important to maintaining a positive disposition.
10. Remember, we do what we do for the patients
Never forget this last point and your career as a pharmacist will surely be long and fulfilling.
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