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Military Pharmacy Questions for a PY4

Discussion in 'Pharmacy' started by giovannile07, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. giovannile07

    giovannile07 MCPHS University PharmD C/O 2017 5+ Year Member

    Hey everyone,

    I just had some curiosity about becoming a pharmacist through the military (I'm specifically looking at the Navy, but still researching and discovering what could possibly be the best route for me).

    First, I wanted to know how difficult it is to become a pharmacist in the military, is there a big need or is it rather scarce? For contract years, is it non-negotiable or is there wiggle room to decide how many years you want to serve under a contract? Lastly, loan repayment/paying for pharmacy school isn't a concern as I've seen in other threads, but I wanted to know more about benefits you may receive other than loan repayment, I've seen information on pharmacy officer bonus. Also, if you had anything else to share, that would be nice too.

    I am personally interested to serve my country and gain skills and experiences I might not otherwise achieve in other areas of pharmacy. I also will be 23, nearing 24 when I graduate, so I think this would an exceptional time to commission in as an officer. Currently, I've been offered a retail pharmacist position that will pay roughly around $130k if I estimated it correctly (possibly military in the future if not after I graduate), so I understand as a pharmacist in the military I won't be getting a big pay day, but I believe the experiences I will receive will be just as worth it.

    I plan on talking to officer recruiters (hopefully medical corps officers) soon just to see what they say, but I do understand from other threads here to go in being skeptical.

    I would like to thank everyone in advance for taking your time to reply back!
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  3. BC_89

    BC_89 2+ Year Member

    Oct 13, 2014
    Each year they have slots in each branch to pick up officer pharmacists. For info. Under the "mat" sort of speak, if you'd like to be competitive to gain a slot, get an AMEDD recruiter (shoot any recruiter) to sign off on your APFT (physical fitness) paperwork just to show your fitness level (sizes you up and shows initiative).

    Should you have a slot, you can choose years of service they lay out for you similar to those in the Enlisted side. No, you don't negotiate your years of service. They give it to you as a min or max amount for your initial contract. When you sign that's that. You fulfill it.

    Since Loans are not an issue, yes they have a signing lump sum bonus that you receive immediately upon reporting to your first duty assignment. Army as of now is $30k (pre-tax of course) direct deposited into your account (other branches follow this Trend but this yr amounts may differ I can only vouch the numbers for army). Pay starts out as an 0-3 plus basic allowance for housing (tax free), and same for a food stipend (tax free). For my area in southern tx, $1617 is my housing allowance plus $368 for food stipend. Food stipend is the same wherever and housing cost is based on zip code (over-seas have there system as well).

    Other Benefits: Tricare Prime insurance (100% health coverage .... dental/ER/medication you name it). I'm a pharm. tech for army and wrk closely with army/airforce/navy pharmacists so as a plus on both sides and all branches you never deal with insurances or cash registers (ever). Should you want a residency with military they will provide that as well (usually an extension on the contract). As for settings, you'll work on both inpatient as well as outpatient side of the house not just retail (your more valuable being well-rounded). The computer system is pretty straight forward (CHCS) and has been around for many years.

    2018 you'll be under the new blended retirement system (no, I don't anticipate you doing 20+ yrs so I'll mention what pertains to you). Contribute at least 5% to your TSP and the Dept of Defense will match up to your 5%. Once you gained experience and fulfill your contract, you can put all your TSP in your new employers 401k so you get a descent match while in service that can now be placed with your new career.

    Post is getting long, other questions specifically let me know but there's a foundation for you.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017
    hick2672 likes this.
  4. Pharmgirl238


    Apr 16, 2017
    From what I've been reading, most pharmacists are joining the military during school or immediately thereafter; however, I'm looking to talk with someone that has several years of experience after school before joining. I am residency trained and have practiced hospital pharmacy(primarily in critical care) for ~8 years, I am looking into the navy and was hoping to chat with someone that had similar experience. I've spoken with a recruiter and he has been very helpful but he is a nurse and I really would like to talk with another pharmacist. Couple of questions I have 1. Will my previous experience impact anything (rank/pay, where I am stationed initially)?? 2. I am 100% comfortable practicing pharmacy in most any hospital setting (the exception being pediatrics) but have zero military experience, so I have some reservations about what expectations other than pharmacy there would be. People keep saying you are a "soldier first" but could someone clarify what that means exactly. And could someone elaborate more on non-pharmacy duties. 3. Are the shifts divided?? I'm assuming most of the hospitals require 24 hour coverage, so do all the pharmacists rotate through each of the shifts? Or is there shift designation like in the civilian world? Thanks in advance for any help!
  5. BC_89

    BC_89 2+ Year Member

    Oct 13, 2014
    I can see if any of the pharmacists on active duty would be willing to share personal insight on a work email for you if your that interested, with what I do know though, unless you have done an actual PGY1 (and even this may only go so far as to be a competitive applicant), your years of experience will not take into account any incentive starting pay. You will start as an O-3 captain and any accession bonus that comes with it (currently 30k lump sum pre-tax in your account upon receiving your first duty station). Any new incentives may take place depending how the finalizing of the new Blended Retirement System goes. For pay itself you will not go up in rank with no prior service under you. Depending how long you decide to do an initial sign-on, you will have the opportunity to make a "wish list" and see where you would like to go. The further along you do your service, the more optimistic the military is in placing you where you want. No matter what happens, you will be well-rounded on the CHCS system, GLS system (coupling medications for patients), and ScriptPro system (electronic / scanned prescriptions / patient medication profile navigations etc etc) as well work both inpatient / outpatient. The higher in rank you go, the more leadership roles you play rather than simply pharmacy. Currently my chain of command had been a dean at the schoolhouse in JBSA fort sam running the pharm tech program from all branches (a pharmD. holder) while the other published a priority guidebook for all students in both reserve and active components as well as means in preparing for their PTCB certifications and inpatient certifications. For the military itself, many have led department roles and budgeting medication orders for clinical, community, and trauma center hospitals through DMLS program systems. Depending on your duty station, no such thing as an 8 hour work shift at 1 setting. Our captain helps run a small community pharmacy in the morning (helps open) and then goes to the hospital setting and sometimes closes and stays after hours. Some of our other pharmacists put in 60-90+ hours a week (of which this does not count personal training mandated by the branches). If you cannot pass fitness test set every six months, you will be mandated to work out with the enlisted side (an additional 6-12 hours a week on top of schedule). Again this is all relative to your branch of choice and duty station. I work at one of the biggest and busiest bases in the country so these perspectives may be simply outliers (again, I can contact some of the ones I work with to help answer other questions you have). No, you will never run a platoon and rarely be asked to conduct and take order of a company to the front lines of deployment the investment is in your license but you will be expected to know how to do basic "soldiering" as far as qualifying on a weapon every two years and volunteer if you wish to perform tactical skills set by your branch (option, nothing more). 24 hour rotations of "guard duty" could take place but I wont go to much in detail.
    eli8922 and Pharmgirl238 like this.
  6. giga

    giga Pharmacist 10+ Year Member

    Aug 23, 2005
    Just want to point out - since some folks simply aren't aware that it even exists - the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is another option if you are interested in serving your country as a pharmacist in a Uniformed Service. As a PHS officer you receive many of the same benefits and have to meet similar standards of service as officers in the armed forces (not to mention that coast guard pharmacists are PHS officers), but there are also some significant differences in terms of career tracks, culture, and the overall mission. Let me know if you have any questions.
    Pharmgirl238 and PharmD500 like this.
  7. Bunkka85

    Bunkka85 7+ Year Member

    Aug 27, 2009
    Currently an Active Duty AF Rph.

    The easiest way to enter is through the HPSP type programs as a student. Student to the military RPh spots are funded allocations. If those don't get filled then it flows to currently practicing RPhs. Personally, I prefer to take a student as those who are practicing end up getting constructive credit for their previous work experience. This hurts them as they start as a senior Capt or equiv. and then are a Major too fast. Most RPhs that got constructive credit end up leaving the military. Therefore, the service tends to look for motivated students or those with prior enlisted experience.

    So, it is best to commission while in school or very shortly thereafter.

    Benefits are pretty well known. But for pharmacists: $6K / year for board certification and $15K / yr special pay bonus after initial commitment is paid.

    For me I did the HPSP (~$130K paid to school/living stipend) then did 4 years of ADHPLRP ($40K / yr (taxed) to student loans vendor) and now just renewing Pharmacy Office Special Pay.

    Overall, I have deployed, lived OCONUS, and had numerous assignments/leadership opportunities.

    Best position to apply is as a 1st year student. There are 3 year HPSPs (3 yrs paid and owe 3 years). If you only get 1 year HPSP, then your till owe 3 years. So the fast you decide to do it, the better it is for you.

    Usually, the new officers that then to quickly ramp up while serving and understand their role as an officer versus pharmacist tend to make it. Many cycle out because the more senior officers rating them will determine they are unfit for future leadership assignments. Usually those people tend to be socially awkward / conceited / money driven / unethical / fraternize with enlisted, etc. So if you think you will have problems assimilating don't join the services.

    In the Air Force, there are is a small group of AD officers. Similar to Navy, Army, etc. So everyone just about knows everyone.

    In terms of Guard or reserve, I think those are pointless spots. Those officers tend to be weekend warriors and mainly deploy once in a while. We rarely use reserve man days at bases and those spots have been cut in half based off manning rosters. Again, no point in doing that. The Public Health Service is another way to go. Good quality of life, similar AD benefits, but you stay stateside and don't deploy or really do anything cool other than just pharmacy. When I look back at my career, I looked at both options and I am happy with the AD life. The problem with PHS officers is that they really wear a rank but don't understand officership and discipline like Active Duty too. They don't deploy oversees either, maybe for Ebola. That way their big deployment and got kudos from past POTUS. Active Duty you deploy to contingencies, humanitarian and have lots of career broadening opportunities outside of healthcare.

    Hope this helps, if you want to know more just talk to a recruiter and ask them to hook you up with an AD Rph (Junior Officer and a Senior Officer).
  8. giga

    giga Pharmacist 10+ Year Member

    Aug 23, 2005
    I'm currently active duty PHS. This is an oversimplified generalization. One of the perks of being in PHS is the diversity of career tracks you can have as a pharmacy officer. PHS is very "decentralized" which can lead to some of the issues with understanding officership and discipline you mention. This is something PHS leadership is aware of and has actively worked to change in recent years (there's still room for improvement, but the culture has noticeably improved). One thing to keep in mind is that the PHS Commissioned Corps is a minority within HHS (HHS has almost 80,000 employees, and only 6600 of them are PHS Commissioned Corps officers). So yes, definitely, officership and discipline in PHS does not look the same like in the Armed Forces. We also don't have any enlisted personnel, so PHS officers (unless detailed to DOD or USCG) do not get to experience the day-to-day dynamics of working with enlisted personnel that helps reinforce principles of officership and discipline. There are definitely PHS officers that do not really care for officership and discipline, but fortunately for the Corps, these folks are becoming more and more of a minority within the service.

    As a PHS officer I have actually done a lot more non-pharmacy things than pharmacy things. Besides clinical pharmacy billets, pharmacists have opportunities in emergency preparedness, public health research and policy, regulatory affairs, program management, logistics, health administration, executive leadership, and on and on. PHS deployments are mostly state-side, but if you have an interest in more global deployments, then the CDC or the FDA are good go-to agencies for global deployments (I know several PHS officers who have spent months in China, India and Thailand as part of their agency work). DoD occasionally taps into PHS when they are looking for a specific skill set, e.g. we had a PHS pharmacy officer go to Iraq for several months in the early 2000s to help build up their drug supply infrastructure. We also have PHS pharmacy officers that are detailed to the Defense Health Agency (mostly for contract management / formulary management / health IT related work), as well as all US Coast Guard pharmacists are PHS officers detailed to the Coast Guard. So even as a PHS officer you will have opportunities to work in an environment that has more of a military culture. Although if a military culture is the key selling point for you, then the Armed Forces are a better way to go, unless you specifically want to serve in the Coast Guard (which you'll have to join PHS first in order to do).

    PHS has a different mission than the Armed Forces, but we all have the same goal of protecting our nation and serving our country. It really just depends on what mission speaks to you more, but I definitely wouldn't say that you you are stuck doing pharmacy only in PHS - there are a lot of career broadening opportunities in PHS. Granted, they will mostly be public health focused, but not necessarily pharmacy focused.
    lord999 and REALMANMAN like this.
  9. D.B


    Sep 5, 2017
    Guys, I did my Naplex on august 8 in California and haven't received my scores yet, anyone in the same boat??

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