Monday, December 12, 2011

Where Is The Passion in Pharmacy?

While struggling through my undergraduate years, what stoked the fires of my soul was pharmacy. I loved every minute of being in one and would do everything I could to absorb myself in the profession. My desk was littered with trade magazines, my computer flooded with pharmacy websites and even this little site here was born out of this fit of passion.

And while time was worn on and I find myself questioning that passion at times, it nonetheless is still flickering. The new fire in my life is my family, but becoming a pharmacist is ingrained in my being after my experiences these past ten years. It is, in many way, what defines me not only for myself, but for many of the people who know me.

So why do I not see this in my classmates? Why do I not see this in my co-workers? Why do I not see this in the majority of pharmacists, 63 and counting, that I have worked with over the years?

Where is that passion in others that drives me each and every day?

It is out there, fleeting as it may be. No matter where I have found myself, I have always had a pharmacist near by who truly cared about the profession. They saw what I saw, yet felt our hands tied in numerous situations.

My classmates seemingly go through the motions of school, jumping when professors say jump and barking when they say bark. Excitement is extruded over cute little informational clinics, the next frat get together, or the idea of an exam being over. We are tested on regurgitating classes of drugs, signs of a disorder and how to dictate a therapy.

Yet there is no passion in these discussions. For many, it's just more school... a means to an ends if you will.

Again, there are those who feel this passion, who want to see change or wish to envision pharmacy as something more than it is right now. Perhaps it is not as surprising that those of us have found each other to varying degrees as we, more or less, stand out within the class.

But we need more passion.

The disillusion in the profession still astounds me. Retail pharmacy is slowly devolving into a profession of puppets, only doing what corporate lays out for them to do no matter their desires. It is almost as if we are living in a George Orwellian 1984 and information is relayed in pharmacy doublespeak.

"Give more flu shots! Push for 90 day supplies! Obtain new patients!.... But we're going to cut your hours by 20%"

"Patient's are of the utmost importance to our business!... But you're going to be understaffed, only allowing you to spend a brief moment, if at all with them."

It is as confounding as it is frustrating. And I can completely understand why those who say they came out of pharmacy school ready to change the world, only to have their hopes and dreams squashed by reality.

My question is why give up? Why let that passion die? Why must so many pharmacists and students be so apathetic?
"Time is the fire in which we burn." - Delmore Schwartz
Above is one of my favorite quotes that I use as a reminder that our time is ultimately limited and that we need not waste it with frivolous activities. Live life and have fun, but do not waste it away merely doing what corporate says.

Find that passion. Fuel it and stoke its fires. Take that extra second with your patient not only to show you care, but to show yourself that you can do what you want.

We do not have to be pawns in a corporate game. We are professionals and we deserve to be treated like so. Stand up for what you believe is right and where you're passion for pharmacy proudly. After all, they can only ignore it for so long...


Jacqueline said...

I'm not sure how the job market in your area is, but here in the Chicago area it's really hard not to go with the flow with corporate orders. They make it clear that if you don't want to jump, there are 20 people who would be more than willing to do it for you. It's a matter of job security, unfortunately.

I'll be graduating in May, finally, and I have a job offer in my ideal location with a big corporation. While it's enticing, I know that my job satisfaction is likely to be way lower there than it would be some place else, so I'm in the process of doing all of my residency applications right now.

Because I do have a passion for pharmacy I want to teach it, and to me, in this area, retail is not the place, unfortunately. It's a shame what it's coming to.

Phathead said...

I should have clarified that I am not expecting an outright revolt at all, but more disappointment at how so many have given up.

MattP said...

I'm only starting my pre-reqs for pharm school, but as discouraging as some people may be, I also have a passion for pharmacy and that is what keeps me going. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Keep the faith! There ARE passionate pharmacists out there. In school I opted for the clinical residency track because I had worked in retail as a tech and an intern for years and was discouraged for the same reasons you state. I have no regrets and now am a clinical specialist, hospital based and full time faculty at a pharmacy school. I LOVE what I do. I LOVE teaching. I LOVE taking care of my patients in acute care pediatrics and I LOVE that I do get to inspire pharmacy students to pursue their passion. I have friends in community practice (usually independent or small chains, but a few in large retail settings) who are the most passionate pharmacists I know. They inspire me. Keep your eyes open. Don't get discouraged. We are out there, but not usually in "traditional" practices.

milapeace said...

Thank you! I am in limbo now, but the fire hasn't quenched yet.

Anonymous said...

Why no passion? Because the profession doesn't protect itself (read: open more schools even though not enough residencies, job placement decreasing), insurance companies rape everything, and honestly myself and a portion of my class would rather be doctors. In fact two people in my class just got into med school.

Pharmacists have such fragile egos that an 80% lecture attendance rate is absolutely foul to them even though medical school attendances rates are often the same, or worse. They have to constantly look for new things to validate their career which is fine, but seriously we could do without the "i'm a CLINICAL pharmacist I'm sooooo important because MTM" attitudes. FYI doctors like you because you're a human sized epocrates.

Oh. And a lot of the things we are taught can be done, and oftentimes are done, by machines and programs. Did I mention the overflow of new grads and the shit job placement? And the *necessity* to be the goddamn prom queen and student co-president's chair of pharmacists international in order to be of average competitiveness? Don't tell me that it's fine because I can get a job if I move to buttfuck nowhere.

Seriously how can anyone get excited about dosing vanco, calculating complex dilution problems that will probably never be used in practice, and finding drug therapy problems (HOLY CRAP AN ADVERSE REACTION? OH MY. LET ME PUT ON MY PHARMACIST THINKING CAP FOR THIS SOLUTION.) I came into pharmacy thinking it was kind of interesting, but the deeper I go the more I am inclined to believe that most of the shit in pharmacy can be taught on the job to someone with a BS and a few brain cells more than the average joe.

Too bad I'm going to be 150k in debt by the end of all of this or I would have peaced out a while ago so they could fill my spot with someone who actually cares.

Davide said...

I very much enjoyed this post. Over the past three years, I have steadily developed a passion for the profession of pharmacy which has stemmed from a mating of this science with bioethics.

I think that one part that may be lacking in helping people develop their passion for pharmacy (or anything) for that matter is a lack of ability to express what it is that actually motivates them, drives, interests.

In ethics, a significant part of our education was simply developing a vocabulary to thoughtfully describe what it is that goes on in the metaphysical and physical world. This alternative language has allowed me to explore the depths of my passion for pharmacy from a social, ethically-oriented standpoint.

Although I have not yet started my first year of pharmacy school (will be doing so this Fall 2014), I am aware that it is likely that the pharmacy students I encounter, much like the medical students I teach ethics to, may not have developed a method of explaining themselves in ways that might lend themselves to a full expression or comprehension of their passion for healing, drugs, etcetera.

Anyway, just some thoughts...