Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Opportunity I That I Probably Shouldn't Pass Up

Last week at work, the phone rang, and I picked it up just like a do probably over 100 times per day. This time it wasn't a patient asking for a refill or a doctor's office calling in a script. It was a pharmacy recruiter inquiring about if I or any of the other pharmacists on staff had an interest in a job at a local hospital.

We get these calls at least once per week. I've spoken recruiters plenty of time in the past. Usually, my aim is to get off the phone as quickly as possible so that I could go back to doing my job. For some reason, I actually listened to what he said this time.

He was talking about a clinical pharmacist position at a local hospital. They were looking for a recently graduated PharmD that would round with the medical team and work directly with both the medical staff and patients on the unit floors. It was a decentralized pharmacy, so I wouldn't be spending all day in the hospital basement. He even said there would be plenty of opportunities for teaching. Finally, the salary would be very competitive, ranging into 6-figures, and they would pay for any relocation expenses.

I'm a retail pharmacy guy. I like retail. Maybe it's just because I work in an absolutely great situation. My company gives plenty of staff hours, and my store is in a small, middle class town. We're busy, but it's more than manageable. Plus, I feel like I'm pretty good at my job, and I continue to get better as I get more and more experience.

If it were up to me, I'd stay in retail pharmacy at my current store for the rest of my career. However, I don't have the greatest confidence in the long term outlook of retail pharmacy. With more and more insurance companies mandating mail order and ever decreasing 3rd party reimbursements (made worse by companies giving out $4 prescriptions and free antibiotics), I don't know how long retail pharmacy can support itself.

Yes... There will always be retail pharmacies because patients will always need some place to go and get their antibiotics and pain medications. I just worry that 10 years from now, retail pharmacy won't be as robust of a profession as it is now. I fear that many retail pharmacists will find themselves without a job as companies struggle to turn profits. Look at Rite Aid. It's a pharmacy giant, but it's stock is below 50 cents per share. That's not a good sign for the profession.

Whether this happens or not, I cannot say. I know people have been predicted doom on retail pharmacy for 30 years now, and for the most part, it has just kept chugging along. The one thing I do know is that my window of opportunity for moving into hospital pharmacy is shrinking with every passing year. Three years from now, I will no longer meet the criteria of a recently graduated PharmD, and with no hospital experience at all, there's little chance of me ever getting a hospital job... especially a clinically oriented position.

If I got this hospital job and five years from now decide that I don't like it, I could always go back to retail (if retail still has openings then). However, if I stay in retail now, I think I'll be keeping myself in retail forever. I've already forgotten so much of what I learned in school. I still remember most things in general terms, but a lot of the specifics have escaped my mind. They'll continue to escape my mind the more I don't use them or think of them.

I'm really torn on this... I feel like the right decision to make is to apply for that hospital position, and at the very least, get some experience in hospital pharmacy now before I've become completely entrenched in retail. However, that's not what I really want to do. I don't want to leave my job. I'm good at it. I'm highly respected by my coworkers and customers. I like the hours (I would really struggle to be at the hospital at 7:00 AM five days per week). It's very convenient in that it's 2 miles away from my apartment. Most of all, I like it better than hospital. The environment is just better to me. I found hospitals depressing.

I guess I'm looking for opinions here. What do you retail people think about the long term outlook for retail pharmacy? Are there any hospital pharmacists that jumped into it after working exclusively in retail for a longtime? Was the transition difficult?

I'm not looking for anyone to make my decision for me. I'm just trying to gather a little more information.


Anonymous said...

I'm a clinical pharmacist in a 360-bed hospital. I wouldn't trade it for retail. My days are always different, I get to interact with patients, nurses, and physicians, and the benefits are great. Thus far (I'm a new grad), it's everything I've hoped it would be. I've had enough experience in retail to know how different the two worlds are. Just knowing I won't have to spend half my day dealing with stupid insurance companies is enough to remind me to never go into retail. Clinical work keeps me on my toes mentally as well...I'm constantly having to look things up and refresh my memory.

My advice...at least check out the hospital job. Ask if you can hang out with a clinical pharmacist for a day and ask lots of questions. That way, if you end up disliking it, you'll never wonder "what if?".

PharmerGirl said...

I am the too far away from college to qualify for these positions. Infact I do not even have my PharmD (guess that ages me some). I think retail pharmacy will always have a place, even if somewhat different type of work. I manage a pharmacy in a small, midwest town also, but I have been getting into MTM services, vaccinations, and similar more clinical activities. Now the challenge to see if we can get paid for these services. Mail order? Where would these poor souls go, when their mail order doesn't arrive or when they didn't get any counselling on their new med? I hope to think retail pharmacy will always have a need to fulfill.

That being said, if I had my PharmD and was fresh out of college I would strongly consider a clinic position at a hospital, as long as you can be assured that they won't stick you in the basement once you hire on. Why?? It would be really nice to use my knowledge and not have to deal with insurance companies all day. If I could just counsel patients and provide advise to Docs/nurses I would never leave retail. I love the interaction and thinking fast on our toes. However, it seems all the redtape and volume of work keeps pulling me farther away from the customer.

Retail pharmacy will always be around, maybe just evolved into something even better.
As I am typing my thoughts down, I think I have gone back and forth too many times. I wouldn't change careers just because you wonder if you will have a job in 10 years. I think we will. But, if you a ready for something different, you definately need to move on it now, before you are a dinosaur like me.

Good luck!

What I remember of hospital pharmacy it was sitting in the basement filling orders for patient XYZ, and that was the only thing you knew about the patient, and never heard how they are doing again. I found the work very boring and not very fullfilling. Not knowing the patient well will always be the same, but this position sounds like you wouldn't be in the basement.

Anonymous said...

Never hurts to take a look at the job and see if it would be a goof fit for you.
I know a few pharmacists that work 30-40 hours as decentralized pharmacists in a hospitals and then float in a retail setting every so often. They seem very happy with the variety in their careers. One of them is a clinical pharmacist for just enough hours to get benefits through the hospital and then he does mtm cases for a big chain.

Try something new, that you are not as good at and see where it takes you.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...


This would also open up new possibilities on the romance end of things. Maybe that isn't a big motivation right now but something to think about. Between hospital administration, nurses, doctors, PAs, other pharmacists and all the other hospital personnel, you may find someone special!

Anonymous said...

Agree with preceding posts, Mike. Long-time hospital pharmacist with residency. Just recently quit to go part-time hospital and pick up retail shifts (to see what it was like). Have to say that enjoy both immensely, but do have the background to do both easily, as I've gotten the PharmD within last 10 years. One thing that I hear consistently from techs and pharmacists alike that are looking for a change--they're 'afraid' of hospital--the drugs, urgency, different technologies, etc. seem daunting. At least, if you gave hospital a good 6 months, you'd know whether it'd work for you. If you don't try it, you'll never know if it offered an opportunity to better or differently use your talents! Also, if there are other openings for pharmacists, such as my town's County Emergency Preparedness, and Drug Court needs pharmacist input, you'd have some unique networking to draw on.

C'mon. Try it, Mikey.

Anonymous said...

i'm in the same situation! i like where i work and i'm very "comfortable" where i am. the hours are great, have a great staff, and manageable customers/boss. i hear that there are some great clinical opportunities at hospitals now but i'm scared to make the change. i feel like i'm losing more and more of the knowledge i've learned in school and if i don't use it soon...well you know...

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm one of those dinosaurs that graduated with a BS pharmacy because PharmD wasn't even offered yet. I say go for it, there is nothing to lose. If you hate it it is not like retail is going to disappear in the next couple of years.

good luck

Anonymous said...

I had always planned to get into a clinical setting, after a few years of retail helped to pay bills....now 12 years later and having only a BS degree, i only wish i had the opportunity you do... go for it. Get the experience because once you are in retail for so long, clinical work becomes less and less of an option.

pharmacy chick said...

You are young and recent, dont regret it later. You can always say no if they offer it. I just interviewed for hospital work, after 21 years in retail. "we'll train" they said, but the silence was pretty clear. No pharm-d, No experience in hospital, never heard of Pixis....I could run circles around any of them if they were dumped behind a retail counter, but I am too far away from this game to do it now. The only thing that qualified me to apply for the job was "RPh" after my name.