Do Pharmacy Schools Prepare Their Students for Life After Graduation?

My opinion is ABSOLUTELY NOT.

When I graduated pharmacy school, I got a job at a hospital about 3 hours south of my parents’ home. I didn’t even last the probation period. I knew the technical pharmacy stuff, but I had no clue how a hospital pharmacy ran. I had inpatient hospital rotations, but they were with clinical specialists, who weren’t in the main pharmacy; I was hired to be a staff pharmacist. I didn’t know how to treat the technicians, and other healthcare professionals. I didn’t even basic pharmacy rules and regulations! To be honest, I wouldn’t have kept me either.

After that job, I went to work for Walgreens in that area, since my parents’ area was saturated with pharmacists. I thought I was prepared for that job, because I worked at Walgreens as an intern while in pharmacy school, and I had an amazing manager, who became my mentor. Boy, was I wrong! It was the end of the pharmacist shortage, and the beginning of how retail pharmacy is now. I still lacked the skills to be an efficient and effective supervisor to the technicians, and I didn’t know how to deal with unruly patients. Eventually I left Walgreens, and went from job to job, from Illinois to Texas. With each job, I learned valuable skills needed to be a GOOD pharmacist, and ultimately, landed a job that I truly love. If it weren’t for certain skills, I wouldn’t be where I am at now.

I am also a preceptor for students from the Texas pharmacy schools, and after many candid discussions with P4 students, I realize that the future is very bleak for them. Many skills that are vital for various pharmacy settings are not even taught in school. In Texas, it is a state board requirement to have IV certification in order to work in hospital or infusion settings. Yet, most students haven’t even held a needle. Many new graduates are being thrust into management positions. How can they manage a pharmacy if they do not even understand the basics of how the pharmacy is operated? What about interpersonal skills?

Pharmacy schools do an amazing marketing job in telling prospective students about the six figure salary that they will receive after graduation, and the high job placement rate. However, what they do NOT tell the prospective students is that there is an oversaturation of pharmacists in the desirable areas (mainly metropolitan cities), and that graduates take either a position in an undesirable area, or take multiple per diem positions. However, a job is a job, so the pharmacy schools do maintain a high job placement rate. Most of the pharmacy students come out of school with over $150k in debt, so not having a position is not an option for most. Plus, who wants to spend that kind of money, for nothing to show for it in the end?

So, what can we do to help the future generation of pharmacists, besides telling them to not go into pharmacy in the first place? It is obvious that pharmacy schools will not change their marketing strategy to realistic views of today’s job market, nor will they incorporate mandatory classes to teach pharmacy students basic life and management skills needed for after graduation. I learned my valuable skills needed in order to be a good pharmacist through my many jobs, but many employers do not have the patience or desire to teach the new grads these basic life and management skills. Why should they, when they have 10 applicants for even a per diem position?

 What about the current pharmacy students, new graduates, and pharmacists in the market now? How can we help them become GREAT pharmacists? One way is to have a mentor. However, a good mentor-mentee relationship takes YEARS to cultivate. Even then, people change, jobs change, skill sets required change. If the mentee changes, there is no guarantee that the mentor will change as well. What about YouTube videos? Anyone can find any type of tutorial on YouTube, right? There are some things that even YouTube can’t teach properly. There are many books on management and leadership, but many pharmacy students and new graduates will not know how to decipher what information is applicable to them, and how to apply that information in their current or desired practice settings. I recently hired a career coach, and I have seen so many positive changes. Even if my job or circumstances change, the career coach can guide me through those changes, while still making the positive impact. 

There is no one right way to better oneself as a pharmacist; but finding the right solution may take some time. But one thing is clear: one must have the desire to change. We cannot change the market, or the way pharmacy schools churn out pharmacists; but we CAN change what kind of pharmacist we desire to be.


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