Is it worth the time and money to study to become a pharmacist?

Jan 14, 2015
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Additional years of school, around 100k+ in debt, and two years of residency. Is it really worth the time and money to enter this field?
 
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Peterpiper1

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Mar 6, 2017
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No.

Unless it's been your dream for as long as you can remember DO NOT go into pharmacy.
Too many schools, too many graduates, nowhere near enough jobs. It will be extremely hard to find a floating position let alone your own store. Many recent grads I've talked to say you will be taken advantage of by the chains and paid a lot less than that 120k average salary, factor in loan payments and taxes and that salary is a quarter of what you thought it would be. You'll then be let go when you burn out when they work you to the bone, only to be replaced by the next new grad. It's a vicious cycle I've seen first hand.
But you want to be a clinical pharmacist? Good luck getting a residency when 90% of your class also wants a residency. Not too mention clinical pays less than retail.
Think of other career options first.
Nobody thinks it'll happen to them, until it does.
 

Abby Atwood

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Jan 4, 2017
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Worth it to me, but I fit into the category of always wanting to be a pharmacist. It depends on why you want to be a pharmacist. You will have to job hunt at graduation so an easy job market isn't a great reason. I love pharmacy because it's really collaborative. Plus, you graduate with a different set of skills than MDs. Even though I'm practicing with doctors that are far more experienced than I am, I'm still able to have a positive impact on patient care.

You can't totally trust what I say though. I'm biased because being a pharmacist is the best :)
 

Amphetamine Salts

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Oct 31, 2015
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No it's not worth it. If you're not already in this field don't come. Do something else with more availability and less debt like marketing, finance, or just go to state college and then start your own business
 

SCCpharm

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Apr 15, 2006
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Absolutely not. Extremely high stress. You get yelled at, abused, and pulled in all directions by customers, tech, doctors, and management. Not to mention, you are standing all day 8.5 hours straight with no 15 minute breaks or lunch break. If you're lucky, you'll find 5 minutes of spare time to inhale your lunch.

Also, hours suck. One week you will have to work closing which is typically 2pm to 10pm. If you ever plan on having a family, imagine that you won't see your family or kids at all for that whole week, since they'll be leaving to school or work at 8am and coming home around 3-4 pm. So every other week when you're closing the pharmacy at 10pm, your kids are without their mom or dad. You will have to work holidays. Getting Christmas or Thanksgiving off in retail is akin to having a miracle. Don't plan on visiting relatives on those holidays if they live out of state.

Most of you're coworkers (techs) don't care as much about the job as you do. They'll be the ones calling off work regularly and screwing the whole pharmacy over. They'll be the ones goofing off or socializing or just being lazy, while you're stressed out and busting your ass with 5 waiters in the waiting room breathing down your neck, doctor call on line 101, doctor call on line 102, patient quesitons on 103, 2 people in the waiting room staring you do waiting for you to give them a flu shot, 30 prescription to verify, and 60 scripts to bag up, drive thru ringing the buzzer for service, and the lady in consultation wants to know what aisle the burn cream is and since she can't find it, she needs you to personally show you where it is.
 

hye345

10+ Year Member
Nov 13, 2006
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Absolutely not. Extremely high stress. You get yelled at, abused, and pulled in all directions by customers, tech, doctors, and management. Not to mention, you are standing all day 8.5 hours straight with no 15 minute breaks or lunch break. If you're lucky, you'll find 5 minutes of spare time to inhale your lunch.

Also, hours suck. One week you will have to work closing which is typically 2pm to 10pm. If you ever plan on having a family, imagine that you won't see your family or kids at all for that whole week, since they'll be leaving to school or work at 8am and coming home around 3-4 pm. So every other week when you're closing the pharmacy at 10pm, your kids are without their mom or dad. You will have to work holidays. Getting Christmas or Thanksgiving off in retail is akin to having a miracle. Don't plan on visiting relatives on those holidays if they live out of state.

Most of you're coworkers (techs) don't care as much about the job as you do. They'll be the ones calling off work regularly and screwing the whole pharmacy over. They'll be the ones goofing off or socializing or just being lazy, while you're stressed out and busting your ass with 5 waiters in the waiting room breathing down your neck, doctor call on line 101, doctor call on line 102, patient quesitons on 103, 2 people in the waiting room staring you do waiting for you to give them a flu shot, 30 prescription to verify, and 60 scripts to bag up, drive thru ringing the buzzer for service, and the lady in consultation wants to know what aisle the burn cream is and since she can't find it, she needs you to personally show you where it is.
You've just described a worst-case scenario for a retail pharmacist. In the interest of balance, I'd like to present my current situation (staff RPH for 2 years at CVS in CA):
1) My supervisor (DM) and PIC are both very helpful and supportive.
2) While I have worked techs as described above (mainly front-store people), the majority of my (current) technicians are hard-working, knowledgeable. and care about the patient's well-being.
3) The vast majority of our patients are very considerate/patient, and understand that we get swamped sometimes, and thus don't mind waiting. Many of them are also very appreciative of the service we provide.
4) The doctor calls can be annoying, especially when you have to call back to correct/clarify stuff, but most are appreciative of our clarifications/corrections.
5) This is just CA law, can't speak for other states, but I get a 30 minute (unpaid) lunch break, and anything over 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week is OT (time and a half).
6) While we are currently short-staffed (had some techs leave unexpectedly), we do receive a generous number of tech hours, and generally have plenty of help.
7) The hours are pretty random, and definitely aren't normal business hours, but this is something that you can work out with your staff and/or PIC, in terms of when you wanna work (same goes for time off/vacations).

Is my situation unique? Probably. Something tells me that the picture you described doesn't happen everyday either. My understanding is that the reality (for most pharmacists) falls in between our two scenarios.
 

WVUPharm2007

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"In 100 years everyone you've ever known will be dead. Including yourself. Everything we do is meaningless. We are all just crying and screaming into the dark abyss. Is it really worth the time and money to do anything, really? Should you become a pharmacist? Just like everything in life, it only brings pain and nothingness. The real question is actually suicide. Is it the only true decision?" -- Albert Camus in a parallel universe where he is alive today and a pharmacist posting on this forum.
 
Apr 8, 2013
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factor in loan payments and taxes and that salary is a quarter of what you thought it would be
Agree. Do the math on the salary deducting taxes and student loans. You'll be surprised about the reality of a "six figure income." Hint: It ain't six figures.

you are standing all day 8.5 hours straight
I've known a few that worked 14 hour shifts in retail. In fact, I did a 14 one time with no breaks (yes, I learned my lesson after one time) to fill in for a colleague. It was me + one tech (there was an overlap of two techs for a couple hours in the middle of the day). Probably ranks on my list of top 100 worst days (can't do a top 10 in pharmacy, simply can't narrow it down that much). It was a high volume pharmacy, and I was the only RPh. We had a "robot" (not nearly as cool as it sounds) to fill prescriptions... it broke down. Being that it wasn't my store, I had no flipping clue how to fix it. Neither did the tech. People backed up at the register and drive-through all day. Lots of profanity directed at me that day.

Granted, I have had many good days, but psychology has shown that it takes about 5 "good" interactions to outweigh 1 "bad" interaction (or something to that effect). If you're working in a fully staffed and competent operation, then you'll be alright. However, a lot of pharmacies don't fit that description. How well a day goes (in a retail operation) is highly dependent on several things... such as... is your cashier being perky or grumpy? Is your technician busting her butt or sitting on it? Is your technician responsive to direction and motivation? Is you technician attacking routine and non-routine tasks head-on or secretly trying to push them off onto tomorrow's crew?

So every other week... you're closing the pharmacy at 10pm
Agreed that working late shift is no fun. You basically have to sit around all morning, waiting for it to be time to go to work. Very difficult to enjoy the first part of the day knowing a full shift is looming for the second part.

Most of you're coworkers (techs) don't care as much about the job as you do. They'll be the ones calling off work regularly and screwing the whole pharmacy over. They'll be the ones goofing off or socializing or just being lazy, while you're stressed out and busting your ass with 5 waiters in the waiting room breathing down your neck, doctor call on line 101, doctor call on line 102, patient quesitons on 103, 2 people in the waiting room staring you do waiting for you to give them a flu shot, 30 prescription to verify, and 60 scripts to bag up, drive thru ringing the buzzer for service, and the lady in consultation wants to know what aisle the burn cream is and since she can't find it, she needs you to personally show you where it is.
And the lady asking about the burn cream also wants to lift up her shirt (without asking) to show you the burn, and - no - it's not what you think. She is a 64-year-old obese smoker whose last shower was the day before Trump got elected. She asks, "What is it from?" And you just look at her...

My favorite is the people who think pharmacists are "the free doctor." They can't understand that we don't (and are not qualified to) provide diagnoses. You tell them that you are not qualified to diagnose and refer them to their PCP. They promptly ignore you and ask the same question in a slightly different way as though you really know what is wrong, but you're "not allowed" to tell them due to some law or company policy.

Now, a lot of pharmacies are offering health screenings like for A1C and cholesterol. Wonder if we'll ever expand the services to include prostate exams... That will be the day I change careers. Although, that's what I said about immunizations and where am I now? Immunizing... that's where. Honestly, it's not surprising that some people think we're medical doctors. We have a PharmD (doctorate), wear a white coat (and who doesn't these days?), give immunizations, and check A1C levels. The pharmacy profession has been having an identity crisis, and pharmacists got caught in the middle. Are we PCPs or dispensers? Apparently, now some sort of high volume hybrid. I'm sure there are some free market elements driving this shift, but I can't help but point the finger (partially) at academia and organizations like APhA - both of which seem to be out of touch with reality. The job description is growing longer and less focused. Pharmacy is a totally different beast compared to what it once was, and there are more changes to come for sure. You probably laughed at my prostate exam comment, but wait 10 or 20 years, and we'll see if it sounds absurd then.

Before you go to school for anything, figure out what your passions and skills are. Then find a career path that marries the two. Also keep in mind that the PharmD is becoming less of a golden ticket according to pharmacist supply/demand trends.
 
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CetiAlphaFive

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Apr 12, 2016
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Absolutely not. Extremely high stress. You get yelled at, abused, and pulled in all directions by customers, tech, doctors, and management. Not to mention, you are standing all day 8.5 hours straight with no 15 minute breaks or lunch break. If you're lucky, you'll find 5 minutes of spare time to inhale your lunch.

Also, hours suck. One week you will have to work closing which is typically 2pm to 10pm. If you ever plan on having a family, imagine that you won't see your family or kids at all for that whole week, since they'll be leaving to school or work at 8am and coming home around 3-4 pm. So every other week when you're closing the pharmacy at 10pm, your kids are without their mom or dad. You will have to work holidays. Getting Christmas or Thanksgiving off in retail is akin to having a miracle. Don't plan on visiting relatives on those holidays if they live out of state.

Most of you're coworkers (techs) don't care as much about the job as you do. They'll be the ones calling off work regularly and screwing the whole pharmacy over. They'll be the ones goofing off or socializing or just being lazy, while you're stressed out and busting your ass with 5 waiters in the waiting room breathing down your neck, doctor call on line 101, doctor call on line 102, patient quesitons on 103, 2 people in the waiting room staring you do waiting for you to give them a flu shot, 30 prescription to verify, and 60 scripts to bag up, drive thru ringing the buzzer for service, and the lady in consultation wants to know what aisle the burn cream is and since she can't find it, she needs you to personally show you where it is.
Literally all of that sounds like your fault.

Find your spine. Stand up for yourself.
 
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Hope1974

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Apr 7, 2011
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Also, hours suck. One week you will have to work closing which is typically 2pm to 10pm. If you ever plan on having a family, imagine that you won't see your family or kids at all for that whole week, since they'll be leaving to school or work at 8am and coming home around 3-4 pm. So every other week when you're closing the pharmacy at 10pm, your kids are without their mom or dad. You will have to work holidays. Getting Christmas or Thanksgiving off in retail is akin to having a miracle. Don't plan on visiting relatives on those holidays if they live out of state.

Most of you're coworkers (techs) don't care as much about the job as you do. They'll be the ones calling off work regularly and screwing the whole pharmacy over. They'll be the ones goofing off or socializing or just being lazy, while you're stressed out and busting your ass with 5 waiters in the waiting room breathing down your neck, doctor call on line 101, doctor call on line 102, patient quesitons on 103, 2 people in the waiting room staring you do waiting for you to give them a flu shot, 30 prescription to verify, and 60 scripts to bag up, drive thru ringing the buzzer for service, and the lady in consultation wants to know what aisle the burn cream is and since she can't find it, she needs you to personally show you where it is.
Totally agree. No real lunch break, hours s**k a**, opiodes are out of control and in the midst of all the craziness you have to give shots. I gave at least 12 flu shots yesterday. No lie. I felt like saying no, but these days your monitored by your supervisor through your techs. We should get paid more for that. That's more liability. Who's f******* idea was it for pharmacists to give shots? Great idea. Briliiant. Maybe we'll get to prescribe too. Can you imagine doing all this sh** in a mandatory counsel state. And for those of you not familiar with mandatory counsel. If you work at retail in a mandatory state and a prescription is processed, and the computer doesn't see that the patient has ever had the medication before, the label pops out with "counsel" on it so when the tech is at drive through or pick up, they yell "counsel" and you have to run over there. Fun. I can definitely say I got my work out. After you get home you just pass out. Which is why in one year I plan to be out of this pharmacy bs. Talk about modern day slavery....
 

Hope1974

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Uh uh girlfriend, tell her the burn cream is in aisle 14 and if she doesn't see it then we don't have it.
 

Peterpiper1

2+ Year Member
Mar 6, 2017
62
63
Seriously, if you went through the trouble of becoming a pharmacist you knew this is what you were getting into. Hard working conditions should be no surprise.

Kinda sick of all the complaining going around pharmacy. Suck it up. It's tough all around. If you don't like what you're doing, do something about it.
Nobody mentions the positives, they just like to b**** and moan.
 
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Jbrl

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May 7, 2015
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My favorite is the people who think pharmacists are "the free doctor." They can't understand that we don't (and are not qualified to) provide diagnoses. You tell them that you are not qualified to diagnose and refer them to their PCP. They promptly ignore you and ask the same question in a slightly different way as though you really know what is wrong, but you're "not allowed" to tell them due to some law or company policy.

Now, a lot of pharmacies are offering health screenings like for A1C and cholesterol. Wonder if we'll ever expand the services to include prostate exams... That will be the day I change careers. Although, that's what I said about immunizations and where am I now? Immunizing... that's where. Honestly, it's not surprising that some people think we're medical doctors. We have a PharmD (doctorate), wear a white coat (and who doesn't these days?), give immunizations, and check A1C levels. The pharmacy profession has been having an identity crisis, and pharmacists got caught in the middle. Are we PCPs or dispensers? Apparently, now some sort of high volume hybrid. I'm sure there are some free market elements driving this shift, but I can't help but point the finger (partially) at academia and organizations like APhA - both of which seem to be out of touch with reality. The job description is growing longer and less focused. Pharmacy is a totally different beast compared to what it once was, and there are more changes to come for sure. You probably laughed at my prostate exam comment, but wait 10 or 20 years, and we'll see if it sounds absurd then.
I wouldn't advise anyone to go into pharmacy unless they find it's their calling for this exact reason. Forget about the student supply aspect - the profession doesn't know where it belongs. Pharmacy thought leadership is either estranged from the daily realities of pharmacists or has no power to change anything. It pushes for the seat at the table already being filled by PAs and NPs, who are far more unified in their lobbying efforts.

Therefore, whenever some innovation in practice occurs (e.g immunizations), all the benefits are passed over to the corporations and payers, simply giving pharmacists more work without any compensation. The desired practice models are not employed widely because we don't get paid enough (or at all) for them. Those that are introduced are piggybacked off of existing services, further straining resources. On the flip side, all the risks are passed over to the pharmacists (liability, decreased patient satisfaction, etc). This seems to be occurring across the board in the healthcare professions, but ours seems to be particularly vulnerable.
 
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SoylentGreen

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Oct 13, 2006
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You've just described a worst-case scenario for a retail pharmacist. In the interest of balance, I'd like to present my current situation (staff RPH for 2 years at CVS in CA):
1) My supervisor (DM) and PIC are both very helpful and supportive.
2) While I have worked techs as described above (mainly front-store people), the majority of my (current) technicians are hard-working, knowledgeable. and care about the patient's well-being.
3) The vast majority of our patients are very considerate/patient, and understand that we get swamped sometimes, and thus don't mind waiting. Many of them are also very appreciative of the service we provide.
4) The doctor calls can be annoying, especially when you have to call back to correct/clarify stuff, but most are appreciative of our clarifications/corrections.
5) This is just CA law, can't speak for other states, but I get a 30 minute (unpaid) lunch break, and anything over 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week is OT (time and a half).
6) While we are currently short-staffed (had some techs leave unexpectedly), we do receive a generous number of tech hours, and generally have plenty of help.
7) The hours are pretty random, and definitely aren't normal business hours, but this is something that you can work out with your staff and/or PIC, in terms of when you wanna work (same goes for time off/vacations).

Is my situation unique? Probably. Something tells me that the picture you described doesn't happen everyday either. My understanding is that the reality (for most pharmacists) falls in between our two scenarios.
My situation is like the one in the post you responded to, only worse. I do get a half hour lunch, but on the other hand my shifts are at least 11 hours, except on Sunday. I would be thrilled to trade my lunch away for a mere 8.5 hour shift. And only 90 in the queues? That's a good day.
 
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wagrxm2000

A different perspective
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Seriously, if you went through the trouble of becoming a pharmacist you knew this is what you were getting into. Hard working conditions should be no surprise.

Kinda sick of all the complaining going around pharmacy. Suck it up. It's tough all around. If you don't like what you're doing, do something about it.
Nobody mentions the positives, they just like to b**** and moan.
I still love my job. I have great relationships with almost all my customers. They trust me and ask for my advice all the time. I sit down for every meal and normally leave the pharmacy as soon as the staff comes in to get other things done. We are rarely behind and I love flu season. I get to sit down even more.

We have two DHs who cover any call offs and my entire staff is trained well. The techs make your life easier and I take care of my staff to make sure they are happy which then makes my life better..

Anyone in those extremely high script count stores, I feel bad for but that shouldn't represent the entire field. The job is easy if you are willing to make it easy.

There something positive.
 

quickpic007

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Sep 22, 2016
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Seriously, if you went through the trouble of becoming a pharmacist you knew this is what you were getting into. Hard working conditions should be no surprise.

Kinda sick of all the complaining going around pharmacy. Suck it up. It's tough all around. If you don't like what you're doing, do something about it.
Nobody mentions the positives, they just like to b**** and moan.
What is your #1 positive?

My situation is like the one in the post you responded to, only worse. I do get a half hour lunch, but on the other hand my shifts are at least 11 hours, except on Sunday. I would be thrilled to trade my lunch away for a mere 8.5 hour shift. And only 90 in the queues? That's a good day.
who is doing 11 hour saturdays nowadays with a half hour lunch?? Walmart?
 

owlegrad

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Literally all of that sounds like your fault.

Find your spine. Stand up for yourself.
How is it his fault he has to close every other week? Should he refuse to close and be unemployed?
 
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sosoo

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Seriously, if you went through the trouble of becoming a pharmacist you knew this is what you were getting into. Hard working conditions should be no surprise..
stress. hard working conditions. severely reduced staffing. this all leads to the rise in medication errors thats killing more and more ppl across the country. medication error is soon to catch up with fatality from car accidents. telling ppl to suck it up will not solve the problem. you're too reckless to be a pharmacist.
 

Peterpiper1

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Mar 6, 2017
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stress. hard working conditions. severely reduced staffing. this all leads to the rise in medication errors thats killing more and more ppl across the country. medication error is soon to catch up with fatality from car accidents. telling ppl to suck it up will not solve the problem. you're too reckless to be a pharmacist.
If that's an issue in your pharmacy, then DO something about it, talk to your supervisor, hire more techs or let go the incompetent ones, bring it up with your staff.
Don't just whine and complain, that solves nothing.
I understand there are a lot of problems in pharmacy, but crying about it doesn't help. Be proactive and find ways to improve your workplace.
My comment was more directed at people who whine all the time.
 
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KimChiSlap

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Sep 10, 2016
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Nope, its expensive to study to be a pharmacist
And the amount of time you loss to get there.

I rather be a janitor for BART or something
 

stoichiometrist

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Aug 2, 2011
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Nope, its expensive to study to be a pharmacist
And the amount of time you loss to get there.

I rather be a janitor for BART or something
I would just go to a coding bootcamp for 3 months and $10k and make bank in SF as a software engineer.
 

steveysmith54

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Computer science has way more potential than the dying pharmacy field
I agree, but for someone who has been strong in life sciences and desires to work in a health care field , it's kind of hard to suggest a 180 turn to computer science... that's why I generally recommend pa/np/occupation therapy etc... those field are far from perfect but I feel like they have at least a decade before they turn into the state of where pharmacy is now... because they rely less on producing tangible products like prescriptions, they are harder to replace by technology...

I struggle explaining the problems in pharmacy to people outside of pharmacy... i think the best I can do is say is simply the PHARMd degree just does not hold much value, prestige, and pharmacists are simply not in high demand due to consolidations and lack of profit from insurance reimbursements, supply is way to high...
 

stoichiometrist

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I'd rather play Call of Duty for 3 months, then try to become a sniper for the US military...
Heck, if the US Military became desperate enough they would recruit someone who could play DOOM on I'm Too Young To Die.
 

GrapePropel

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I still love my job. I have great relationships with almost all my customers. They trust me and ask for my advice all the time. I sit down for every meal and normally leave the pharmacy as soon as the staff comes in to get other things done. We are rarely behind and I love flu season. I get to sit down even more.

We have two DHs who cover any call offs and my entire staff is trained well. The techs make your life easier and I take care of my staff to make sure they are happy which then makes my life better..

Anyone in those extremely high script count stores, I feel bad for but that shouldn't represent the entire field. The job is easy if you are willing to make it easy.

There something positive.
Can you give us tips to find and get control of a low script store?
 

GrapePropel

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I agree, but for someone who has been strong in life sciences and desires to work in a health care field , it's kind of hard to suggest a 180 turn to computer science... that's why I generally recommend pa/np/occupation therapy etc... those field are far from perfect but I feel like they have at least a decade before they turn into the state of where pharmacy is now... because they rely less on producing tangible products like prescriptions, they are harder to replace by technology...

I struggle explaining the problems in pharmacy to people outside of pharmacy... i think the best I can do is say is simply the PHARMd degree just does not hold much value, prestige, and pharmacists are simply not in high demand due to consolidations and lack of profit from insurance reimbursements, supply is way to high...
This x 100

Look at the Government BLS outlook. PA job growth is around 30%. Pharmacy is "slower than average" at like 3% and i predict it will be 0% or 1% the next time the government updates it
 

GrapePropel

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wagrxm2000

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under 120 scripts a day. no drive thru. Any store (not an independent)
If it's not Walgreens I won't be of much help. Each company is different.

Under 120 should be quite boring I would think. Pharmacist would be filling way too much which I'd hate being wasted as a pharmacist only to fill all day.
 

ldiot

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You do not get a lunch break, and then customer complains that pharmacist is lazy and unprofessional for eating on the job. Endless scenarios such as this; being blamed for stuff that is out of your control. You are not only a pharmacist, but you are also an insurance agent, a cashier, a customer service representative, a manager, a private investigator, and the doctor's secretary. And your boss things that you are a magician who can do 12 things at once.
 
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