I currently work as a coverage pharmacist for an oncology group, which has in house pharmacies in their clinics all over the state of Texas. I do travel a lot for work, which makes it hard for my social life. But, I love the perks that come with the traveling, I meet with interesting new people at each site that I cover, and I have learned so many new techniques and information at each site. I really do love my job.

I have been asked to take over a site, and stop traveling. I would be in charge of that pharmacy. It would get me off the road, which will improve my social life (supposedly), and I can have a normal routine. However, I would give up the travel perks (goodbye, points, and elite status!)

As a coverage pharmacist, all I had to do was complete the duties of a pharmacist, not of a manager. I was basically there to keep the pharmacy doors open. I didn’t have (as many) responsibilities as a manager.

Deep down, I am scared of taking this position. I would be the pharmacy manager. I would be supervising technicians, and make sure the pharmacy follows all the rules and regulations. I had to organize and make sure all the paperwork was in check. If anything wrong happens at the pharmacy, it would be on me. Would I be able to do all that?

My regional managers all think I would do well at the site they want me to take over, but yes, I do have a lot of self doubt. I’m sure many of you have the same self doubt when given a new opportunity, whether it is a promotion with your current employer, or something new altogether. Tell me, what did you do when you had a new opportunity come your way?

 

 

Wise Words from Steve Jobs

“Your work is going to be fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

Steve Jobs has been a great influence to many people, especially in his last years of life. I definitely look back at this quote when I question my choices in my career. The truth is, in the pharmacy world, how many people really keep looking until they find the work that they are truly satisfied in? One that will utilize their skills and passions together?

Most pharmacists that I know actually just end up settling. Some are fortunate enough to find their dream position; I can finally say that I am one of them. But most feel stuck and unfulfilled in their positions. Those that feel stuck do not even know where to start looking. They are bound by either their financial obligations, or perceived lack of skills. So, how can they keep looking until they find something they love to do?

This is why networking is crucial, especially in today’s job market. How do you know what is truly out there, until you talk to someone who has been doing it for years? In pharmacy school, we are programmed that there are mainly 2 pharmacy settings: retail and hospital. I’m in a very unique hybrid setting of retail/infusion/clinical. I would not have known about this setting if it were not for my friend and mentor telling me.

I would also advise job seekers to not let your perceived lack of skills be considered a big weakness. Actually, it can be used as a big strength. I had no experience or knowledge about oncology (except the week that was taught in pharmacy school). Because I do have a personal interest in oncology, I was willing to learn about it. Currently, I’m proficient in it, although I am not Yoda (we have a colleague that is, and I do reach out to her if I cannot find the answer myself). If it is your passion, or vested interest, you can acquire the skills needed to perform the position you are seeking. Most employers are also looking for valuable members of their organization who are trainable and willing to learn.

I hope that present and future pharmacists do not believe that there are only certain positions that they can hold. Pharmacy is a very broad industry, ranging from the traditional settings, like hospital and retail, to the unique setting like oncology clinic. There are also other industries that could benefit with a pharmacy background, like insurance and research and development. It really just depends what the job seeker perceives as great work to him/her.

I’ll leave another great Steve Jobs quote: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Lying on Your CV

I have a cousin who is a pharmacist, currently looking for a new position in Europe. Looks like the pharmacy job market isn’t great in other parts of the world, but I digress. She messaged me about some advice that was given to her by an acquaintance. She was told to put on her CV that she had experience in pharma in UK, even though she hadn’t. Apparently, it is the norm to do this in other industries.

My cousin felt uncomfortable doing this, as in pharmacy there is a code of ethics that we all feel like we should follow (well, most of us feel like we should follow the code of ethics). I told her that if she felt uncomfortable doing this, there is a good reason. Also, if the companies go back and verify her employment and find out that she lied, it will look worse on her. She agreed. She decided not to put experience on her CV that she didn’t have, and decided to reword her CV to get better traction on job opportunities in Europe.

That got me thinking, though. Is that what job seekers are resorting to nowadays? Are people lying on their CV, just to noticed by companies? I don’t know how the European market, and if they even check your work history, but here in the US, the companies do call and verify that what is stated on the CV is true.

I hope people will share their experiences, if they have lied on their CV and what consequences came of it; or if companies are not checking up as much I thought they did.

Heartfelt Thank You

So many people have reached out to me, or shared my story about life in pharmacy school. Words cannot describe how wonderful I feel. I really hope that my story inspired pharmacy students and new pharmacists, as well as those practicing for a while, to speak up about the trials and tribulations that they are going through. And if needed, seek help.

Mental health is still a strong social stigma in today’s society, especially in the healthcare field. We always have to do more, with less. It is very easy to get overwhelmed, and feel like you’re drowning. I didn’t get the help I needed while in pharmacy school, and it is tough for friends and family to fully understand what depression is like, unless they have gone through it themselves. But, just reaching out to someone will guide anyone who needs help to the person that CAN help them.

I am available to share more of my story, and give guidance if I can. Until then, I will keep encouraging everyone to share their stories with me.

Thank you again.

Pharmacy School After Depression

I recently got asked how I was motivated to finish pharmacy school after leaving because of my depression. I actually failed a couple classes, and the school decided that maybe I wasn’t the best fit there. I had left feeling so helpless, and definitely overwhelmed.

It took about 2 years to finally “beat” my depression, and no longer feel like a failure. I had met a lawyer through my NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) support group, and he really fought hard for me to get back in. I had MANY stipulations added, which no other student had to go through. But, in the end, I got my Doctorate of Pharmacy, and Masters of Business Administration, and was able to give a mental F*** Y** to the pharmacy school administration that fought hard to keep me out.

So, what motivated me to finish school? I honestly do not remember. Part of the reason was my parents and not wanting to disappoint them anymore. They had already invested so much in me, and my education. Part of the reason is because since so many people spent a lot of time and energy helping me get through my depression and get back in, I might as well not waste their efforts by NOT finishing. Part of the reason is to prove to the pharmacy school that I CAN do this; that I AM a good fit at that school, that I CAN and WILL finish school. I guess there is really no ONE reason why I finished school after my depression.

However, the more I think about it, the more I keep asking myself WHY I went back in the first place. I didn’t have to go back to the environment that considered me a loser and failure. I could have chosen a different path, a different career, a different life. Why did I go back to pharmacy school? Was it because I was meant to be one? I AM a good pharmacist, and my current employer loves me and my skills. I have patients and colleagues that are grateful that I am able to utilize my skills and knowledge to deliver the best care possible. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered many settings and subspecialties, which makes me more relatable to newer pharmacists and students. I can impart my wisdom and knowledge from my experiences to help pharmacists that are now coming into the market. But, I wouldn’t have known all this back then, so why DID I go back?

The truth is, I simply do not know, or really, do not remember. I think it’s a combination of reasons,as explained above. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that I did finish, and walked on graduation day. I’m very proud of myself that I went back and got my degrees. NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

However, it also made me think of why I got depressed in the first place. I was doing too much, even in pharmacy school. I kept spiraling out of control, until the feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless, and worthless just took over. Even after getting the necessary help, and unwavering support from friends and family, I still felt bouts of worthlessness. It made me think of what pharmacists are going through now. Many of them are overworked, doing too much, and feeling worthless. Many of them do not know how to get out of this spiral. And I know exactly how that feels.

I may not remember what motivated me during my pharmacy school days, but I know what motivates me now as a coach and mentor. I do not want ANYONE to hit rock bottom like I did. So, if I can help anyone, pharmacist or otherwise, before they feel so helpless, I absolutely will. All it took for me back then was to reach out and find the necessary people to get me through my tough times. I hope that those that can use my help and expertise will reach out to me.

Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me of that time in my life. The ceramic Spike the Bulldog is cute, right?

Two Lives Intertwined

Last weekend I went on a date with a guy that I thought was cool. He was attentive, and seemed to really be into me. He had just moved to my town, and is here on a long term assignment. Well, he had told me he had never been married, and since he hadn’t given me a reason to suspect him, I believed him. While I was on my walk with my friend’s dog, he called and told me that he lied and that he was married, but he hasn’t been with his wife for 3 years. We have mutual friends and acquaintances. It turns out that he had told that that he was married, and no interest in meeting anyone other than as friends.  When my friends told me that he had told them he was married, I blocked him from all forms of contact. It had confirmed my suspicions about him. He seemed like a classic cheater, blaming me for his behavior, and not remembering which lies he told.

I bring this up on my pharmacy blog, because what he did affected my mood, and my work professionally. I wasn’t as attentive as I should have been, I was constantly looking at my phone, waiting for a response from him, even though I wouldn’t get one since I had blocked him. I wasn’t as cheery as I was before. But in the end, whatever happened with this guy didn’t matter. I had a job to do, I had patients to take care of, and I had technicians, nurses and physicians counting on me to be the pharmacist. My problems with this guy had nothing to do with my job, and no one in the pharmacy or clinic cared.

We all have good days and bad days. Our personal and professional lives are linked, and often one will leak into the other. Whenever we are going through something difficult in our personal lives, it comes out in our professional lives. I was lied to and betrayed by this guy, and so I had my guard up at work. I wasn’t as open and friendly as before. have a coworker who feels like she has no control in her marriage, so she micromanages at work. It isn’t just the negative feelings that cross over into our professional lives; our positive feelings cross over as well. When I was first asked by this guy, before knowing his marital status, I was giddy like a teenage girl, and everyone at work saw it. Whenever my favorite technician told me she got into pharmacy school, her excitement was contagious. Everyone in the clinic was as excited as she was, and we all wanted her to succeed in school.

The opposite is also true. Whatever happens at work leaks into our personal life. Whenever we are frustrated or stressed at work, it seeps into our personal lives. Sometimes we take it out on our loved ones; sometimes we just hide in our own shells (this is what I do. I become a social hermit). Sometimes we drink more than we should.

In the end, we can control only so much that goes on in our lives, either professionally or personally. However, we can control what we allow in our other lives. However, this is very hard to do. And it is unhealthy to compartmentalize and shut down our feelings. So, what can we do? For starters, we can minimize our negative emotions. When I realized that I deserve better than that lying cheater, it was easier for me to get a better grip on my emotions. Then I was able to focus on the patients and the pharmacy. It also helped that I felt love and gratitude from everyone in the clinic. Whenever I’m frustrated with work, I exercise or go for a walk (although it has been harder to do this summer, with the temps being over 100). I have my friend’s dog Gri to help me as well. She loves me, and allows me to take her to the nature preserve near her house. Friends are great diffusers, both animal and human.

This weekend, I’m going to forget about the lying cheater, and make new, happy memories with people that love and respect me. And of course, get lots of hugs and kisses from this girl.

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I know she will never lie to me, or cheat on me 🙂

Eiffel Tower — Texas Style

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I work as a coverage pharmacist for an oncology clinic here in Texas. We have sites all over the state. This week, I’m working in Paris. Yes, there is a Paris, Texas. Actually, there are a lot of towns in Texas named after European cities. If you cannot afford to go to Europe, just come to Texas and buy a bus ticket.

It will be 2 years next month that I have been working as a coverage pharmacist. Many people first ask me what it is like to be a traveler, and then tell me that they can’t do my job. The truth is, I’m starting to think like them. Each site that I cover has its own personality, and its own way of doing things. I hate that I have to know so many different ways of doing the same tasks that is mandated throughout the entire company. I also have to deal with many different types of personalities from the staff, and with that, comes drama. I have not dealt with so many petty people before. Finally, the last minute schedule changes make it hard to make and keep plans, and have somewhat of a social life.

With that said, I DO love my job. I have met so many amazing people throughout the company. Like this week, the technician I’m working with took me around town and showed me the Eiffel Tower. I learn about different regimens used in different populations, and spread ideas that other sites have implemented successfully. For example, when I have my own site, I want to put cartoon stickers on the chemo infusion bags, so the adult patients can smile when they see the stickers. Getting chemotherapy is tough enough; such a small gesture makes a BIG difference. And yes, for the most part, I am appreciated for covering the site. Most of the pharmacists that I have covered know that their site is in good hands when I am there.

It is hard to be appreciated, and find joy in your job, especially in pharmacy. There are so many negative aspects that just beat a pharmacist down: irate customers/patients, phone ringing off the hook, impolite representatives from the physicians’ offices, insurance companies and reimbursement cuts, mountains and mountains of paperwork, being compliant with state and federal rules and regulations, mounting tasks from management (who are not pharmacists and really have no clue how the pharmacy is run), drug shortages, rising costs of medications, and so forth. So why are we in pharmacy in the first place?

Just remember WHY you got into your field, whether it be pharmacy or something else. Did you make someone smile today? Did you utilize your skills and make an important intervention? Did you pop some bubble wrap next to a nurse’s ear? Oh wait, I did that today. Remind yourself that it was YOU that did that: brought a smile to someone’s face, made a huge intervention, pop some bubble wrap, etc. Because of YOU, someone’s life got a little better and brighter. For that, you should be really proud of yourself.

I wonder if I can find some Texas style crepes …..

Grateful for My … Failures?

Over my 10 year pharmacy career (thank you Facebook for the lovely reminder), I have had a lot of failures. Anyone who has seen my LinkedIn profile knows I have held A LOT of positions over the last 10 years (coming up on 2 years in my latest position). I knew I wasn’t the right fit in those positions, yet I kept trying …. and kept failing.

In my spiritual center, we are taught to be grateful, even for our mistakes and failures. And even though I had thought that each nonlasting position was a failure, I realized that each position was just a stepping stone to further my career. I have learned so many skills at each position, as well as made lifelong friends (as well as enemies) along the way. Many of them have helped get to the next position.

Walgreens taught me how grueling retail pharmacy can be. It gave me a better understanding about how insurances and PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) work, how to deal with irate patients and frustrated coworkers. I learned conflict resolution at Walgreens; and no, I DON’T give gift cards. Through my mistakes made at Walgreens, I learned that accuracy is WAY more important than speed, to check ALL DUR (drug utilization review) and drug-drug interactions, and how to look up information for the vast amount of dietary supplements out there (“how could it be harmful to me? it’s natural!” Yes, but so it is poison ivy)

My time in West Texas taught me how much I hate sand storms! But that was my first real hospital experience. I learned how to handle NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) orders, CCU (cardiac care unit) and ICU (intensive care unit) orders, how to look at antibiotics and be a part of the stewardship, how to interpret labs and which are clinically significant vs statistically significant, and the flow of hospital pharmacy. I had a clinical coordinator that treated me more like a student than a licensed pharmacist, but even though I hated her at the time, right now I am truly grateful.  I gave presentations in front of other pharmacists, which I hated at the time. It gave me the confidence to speak in front of small crowds and other healthcare professionals. I also learned how to look up different information for physicians, and how to present case studies.

My time in Sherman (North Texas) taught me that racism and discrimination is alive and well. Although most of the pharmacy was happy that I was there, there were a few that didn’t like that I was the only non-white and non-Christian person in the entire pharmacy department. I was able to enhance my clinical skills with the antibiotic dosing, and I got my first taste of oncology pharmacy. Even though my time there was miserable because of the blatant discrimination I experienced there, I did have the greatest pleasure of meeting my close friend and mentor, JS. She is the one who got me the position that I hold currently.

My time at CMC has definitely opened my eyes to a new field of pharmacy. I had never worked in the ICU full time before, let alone dealing with children in the ICU. Most people found find this extremely scary, and I was also extremely scared when I first started. Pediatric pharmacy was incredibly different from what I was used to practicing. But, I learned how to be calm during a code situation, which has helped me calm during high stress environments. I can work more comfortably with pediatric patients, especially in my current position. I realized that no matter how much I did, or how many extra shifts I took, it will never be enough to satisfy my coworkers. In that case, I just realized that I need to do what’s best for ME and my body, which was to leave. It broke my heart to do so, as I thoroughly enjoyed working there.

Currently I work as a coverage pharmacist for an oncology group. I travel all over the state. I have learned different management styles, different ways of doing the same thing (which can be extremely difficult to remember as a coverage pharmacist), how to deal with different personalities, and of course, the world of oncology. There are so many components to oncology pharmacy; and we hit on almost every other medical specialties as well. Yes, it does suck to be away from home, and I feel like I miss out on having a social life (which is very important when you’re single like me), but I have met so many fantastic people in many areas of the state. I also got to see different parks, attractions, cities, etc that most people in Texas have not experienced. I love what I do.

I would have called those previous positions failures in my life, mainly because I couldn’t keep the positions long enough. However, looking back, I am so grateful for those opportunities, as I would not have been the amazing pharmacist that I am today. Sometimes you just have to look back and say, THANK YOU.

So, my challenge for you is to find 5 things that you are grateful for in your current position. If you do not have a position, find 3 things that you are grateful for because you don’t have a current position. And … GO!

Fear … of success?

I haven’t posted much lately, because of all the changes I’m trying to incorporate in my life. I know that reaching out to other professionals and helping them achieve their career goals, or help them find and be successful in their new careers is my ultimate dream, but sometimes life just get in the way.

But does it really? Does life really get in the way? I had talked to my coach earlier in the week, and honestly, even though I am incorporating lifestyle changes (like working out at least 4 days a week, and being more social whenever I’m not out of town for work, and try dating), I could still make time for my own coaching business. So, what really is stopping me?

I learned that fear is what is stopping me. To be more specific, the fear of success. Most have a fear of failure, which is why they do not start their goals in the first place. Both fears have the same result: distraction, aka LIFE.

I had excuses of my friend visiting me from out of town, or I’m working out of town, or I’m trying to go to the gym. Then I realized that if something is important to me, I WILL make the time to go do it. For example, I told my friend that I wanted to get some gym time in. The original plan was for her to come with me. In the end, I ended going to the gym, while she went to an evening church service nearby. The point is, even though she was out of town visiting me, and I was entertaining her, we both found ways to achieve our goals.

I wish I could say I had an epiphany and tell everyone that I overcame my fear and now I’m going to be the best career coach ever. Sadly, that is not the case. I am FAR from overcoming my fear, and lots of other fears keep popping up. However, I have the greatest blessings by having people around who love me and support my goals. Because of them, I am able to get myself back on track on certain goals, and hopefully overcome some of the fears that are blocking my success.

I’m sure many people can relate to the fear that blocks their success, whether it be fear of failure of fear of success. Either way, they make themselves busy with other distractions, and use life as an excuse. I hope they can share their stories of how they overcame their fears and push through achieving their goals. I could definitely use some inspiration.

In the meantime, even though Texas has been experiencing multiple 100+ degree weather and no rain in sight, I still find time to enjoy the nature park near my friend’s house.

 

 

Moving On Up

My coach and mentor posted on social media that he had turned in his resignation at his current position. He is giving up his full time position as an anticoagulation pharmacist at the VA to become an entrepreneur full time. I am very excited for him and his journey, and I am very happy that I get to see him from the sidelines. A, you’ve been successful in your endeavor so far; I know you’ll go on to create more opportunities for yourself and for others.

When I read that post, it got me thinking about my own pharmacy journey, as well as my general life path. Am I truly happy with where I am right now? The answer is yes and no. I am very lucky to be in a job that I love. To be honest, I love my job most of the time; there are some times when I hate it. I have a job where I am challenged mentally, my schedule is normal business hours, I have great rapport with the physicians and nurses, the patients are grateful for my help and expertise, my colleagues and managers are always there whenever I need them, and the technicians I work with are extremely hardworking and loyal. Seems like every pharmacist’s dream job, right?

So why am I not truly happy where I am right now? There are so many reasons. The first reason is the direction that pharmacy is heading towards right now. There are too many players in the pharmacy game, and most of them are not even pharmacists. We are constantly fighting with the PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers; these are the companies that take care of the prescription insurance claims). Most of the medications dispensed in our pharmacies are high cost anti-cancer medications, they cost $5,000 to $20,000 per month. So of course we are fighting for reimbursement, and the right to dispense at our pharmacy, instead of forcing the patients to use their mail order specialty pharmacies. It gets REALLY hot here in Texas (we’ve already had several days in a row where the high has been over 100 degrees), and leaving medications out on the porch in this heat, or in a non climate controlled area, is just a waste of money, time, and resources (if a medication gets too hot, it can lose its efficacy). Patients then can get unexpected delays in their treatments, or their out-of-pocket costs are too high. This is especially true for Medicare patients, who are exempt from taking advantage of copay cards or other assistance from the drug manufacturers. It does break my heart to see patients unable to get their medications because they cannot afford it.

The biggest reason is that I feel like I’m not doing enough to make an impact in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a pharmacist, especially in the oncology setting. I love the path that pharmacy journey has taken me. I am definitely a well rounded pharmacist, because of my experiences; I do not have a narrow field of vision when it comes to pharmacy, which is a dangerous risk with those who specialize. However, I love helping people realize their dreams or overcoming their limitations. I have helped friends and strangers overcome fears and limiting perspectives, and they’ve had their lives change for the better. But I always feel like I can do …. more. I could help more people realize their potential. I could guide more people to find what their true passion is in life. I could advise more people to take the necessary steps needed to get their dream job. More importantly, I can help MYSELF more by sharing my wisdom and talent so others can achieve their goals and dreams.

I’m hoping to follow A’s footsteps, but in my own journey. A has done incredibly well for himself, but I know that his path is not my path. My path will lead me to my own success and experiences. Nonetheless, words cannot express how grateful I am for A’s guidance in my journey.

Until then, I’ll just keep singing the “The Jeffersons” theme song in my head. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L09qnRfZY-k