It’s one thing to silently contemplate quitting pharmacy; talking about it out loud is a whole different ball game.
After spending six or seven years in school, who in the world wants to openly acknowledge that they have thought about leaving the pharmacy profession?
You aren’t alone.
Other pharmacists have considered leaving as well, and many of them are still undecided. It certainly isn’t an easy decision.
What are your strings?
Like the wooden puppet Pinocchio, pharmacists are often at the whim of the managers who are pulling their strings.
In an attempt to maximize profit and cut costs, managers often undermine pharmacists’ decisions and second-guess their work.
They often demand that pharmacists do more with less, and they structure the pharmacist’s responsibilities to accomplish just that.
Like Pinocchio, pharmacists want nothing more than to be in control of their work. They want autonomy at work.
They have little, if any, control over how they spend their time and energy each day because their work is determined by metrics (over patient care).
Patients are angry, managers are angry, and your coworkers are (likely) angry. The job begins to feel a little like prison.
They often feel obligated to stay in their jobs because they are “living up” to their income. After years of eating ramen to make ends meet, these pharmacists finally have a good paycheck, and they are making the best of it. They often live in large homes and drive high-end cars, which traps them into staying in a career they don’t like. Leaving, after all, would mean giving up the house, the car, and a wealth of other perks.
Pharmacists also struggle under an obligation to the profession because they can’t imagine “wasting” all those years of education. In some cases, it feels disloyal to consider leaving pharmacy, and it creates an identity crisis for pharmacists who have been in the industry for a while.
Instead of “betraying the profession”, many pharmacists stay trapped in a job they hate to make money they don’t get to enjoy.
The driving factor, for many of us, is a fear of what other people might think. One pharmacist client wanted to move out of retail pharmacy and into managed care, but she wasn’t following through on steps we identified to help her make the move.
When I asked what was holding her back, she confessed that she was worried about her dad’s reaction. As a Baby Boomer, her dad believed in staying at a job even when you hate it. Because she was nervous about his reaction to her decision to change jobs, she was hesitant to make a move.
It isn’t only the work that suffers
There’s a cost to all this discord, and most of it falls on you.
When you spend the bulk of your time with people who are unhappy with their work, you won’t likely escape unscathed. Add to that the unhappy customers and the sense of futility you feel and you have a recipe for disaster.
The never-ending workload can lead to frustration, and frustration can lead to distraction. The high demands and insufficient time can ultimately force multi-tasking, which can lead to mistakes in the pharmacy.
It’s the kind of stress that destroys marriages and disrupts families. It leads to detachment and burnout. Most importantly, it can create significant health issues if left untreated.
Where in the world do you start?
Helpful people, especially those outside of pharmacy, may suggest that quitting is easy; that you should just walk away.
While other industries may be that simple, pharmacy is not. There are dozens of pharmacy schools training up thousands of new graduates, and employers won’t hesitate to install younger pharmacists in an effort to save money. The pharmacy job market is a living entity that constantly evolves, so pharmacists must be intentional about their next move.
While you should not make any rash decisions, you do, however, have options.
- You can quit. I don’t recommend it because it’s much easier to find a new job when you’re already employed. Besides, you likely have bills to pay and a fair amount of debt to consider.
- You can go back to school. Again, I don’t recommend it. You’ve got almost 8 years of education and you’re struggling to change jobs because of your financial obligations. Is it really plausible that more education (and more debt) will change that? Perhaps it could open doors, but there are plenty of pharmacists who created new opportunities just by hustling to find something new. Education doesn’t guarantee interesting jobs.
So what should I do?
Begin by acknowledging that it isn’t your responsibility to please everyone. When I shared my message, I worried that others might not agree with my perspective.
“There's a direct correlation between the amount of success you enjoy and the
number of haters you have.”
Bill Gates once had leagues of haters. He probably still does. But he recently paid off $75 million worth of polio-related debt that Nigeria owed to Japan. Can you even imagine that level of success?
Haters tend to emerge when you create something worthwhile, believe me that there will always be some people who disagree with the choice you make.
Register for The Happy PharmD Summit.
For four days in March, I’ll be working together with leaders in non-traditional pharmacy to share their stories of transition and exploration.
More than 20 experts will share their experiences about leaving traditional pharmacy roles and moving into fulfilling careers. In many cases, they’ll share how they created opportunities where there previously were none.
They will teach about networking, negotiating salary, consulting, entrepreneurship, and overcoming inexperience to secure a job. The entire summit is free, but the information you’ll get there is priceless.
Consider hiring a coach.
I have made it my business to help pharmacists discover what they are good at. Every day of the week, I help pharmacists transition into real estate, event planning, and dozens of other industries. I’ve helped some leave the profession completely and I’ve helped others transition to part-time work so they can pursue what they love full time.
Coaching isn’t the answer for everyone, and even for those who are interested in coaching, I may not be the right fit. Coaching can, however, help you work beyond the intangibles like trying to please other people because coaches approach your situation without emotion; without baggage.
Coaches tell you the tough truth even when it’s hard to hear.
Although we often misunderstand the source of passion, there is value in finding work you are passionate about. In the years that I’ve been helping pharmacists find fulfilling work, I’ve discovered that passion isn’t a hobby. It isn’t simply something you love that you’re good at.
Passion develops from hard work; from the development of a skill. Occasionally, too, passion emerges when we try something new. When we venture into unknown territory and explore work we’ve never done before. It often grows out of the point where our skill coincides with our story.
The decision to transition is never easy, but consider this: when you find fulfilling work that you love, you’ll wish you had done it much sooner.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.