Why I Don’t Regret Leaving Pharmacy

My reasons for leaving traditional pharmacy without regrets.

Two Years and Four Months

It’s been two years and four months since I graduated pharmacy school. It’s been that long since I decided to not work in pharmacy and to not pursue the path of climbing the pharmacy corporate latter. It’s been that long since I decided to take an unfamiliar path.

I still don’t know if it was the right decision. It’s hard to know how things would have been different had I made the other decision. How would things have turned out had I decided to work in pharmacy? I’ll never know but I do believe that taking that path would have made me a bitter, miserable person and a bad pharmacist.

I often think about this decision. Was it the right decision to make? Was it an easy decision for me? and how have I been dealing with this loss of identity. This identity of being a pharmacist. An identity I developed over years of pharmacy education? How do I cope with being $280K+ in student loan debt and not having a well paying career to help pay it off?

Was My Decision to Leave Pharmacy the Right One?

I would like to think that it was. It’s not always easy to come to this conclusion. But no matter what the consequences of that decision have been I still believe that I made the right decision for myself. For me, working in pharmacy would have been a miserable journey. It would have meant spending about 1/3 of my life performing a job that went against my beliefs.

My beliefs about what it means to be healthy. How could I have worked in retail pharmacy to only dispense medications to people with chronic disease? Diseases of lifestyle. All while knowing that unless those patients worked on their diet, exercise, mental and emotional habits nothing was going to get better for them.

A Bad Pharmacist

What significant role would I have played in those patient’s lives if I only dispensed medications? There would have been no escaping this part of pharmacy. This part that is so concerned not with the health and wellness of the patient but with the prescripitons they bring in and the profits those prescriptions represent.

I would have been a bad retail pharmacist because I would have hated what I was doing. Hating what you do is one thing. I might have even learned to live with it. But doing a job that was incongruent with my beliefes and values would have been a much harder thing to cope with.

A Different Vision of Being a Pharmacist

I would have been a bad pharmacist because the system wouldn’t haved allowed me to do what I truly wanted to do. It wouldn’t have allowed me to develop trusting relationships with patients. To get to know their past struggles with their chronic disease. To understand how their lifestyles helped to contribute to their disease.

I wouldn’t have been able to guide them towards developing better health and wellness habits. I wouldn’t have been able to help them build exercise habits. Better eating habits. Better habits of self-care and compassion.

All of this effort would have been directed at one goal. The goal of helping them to rely less on medications. To learn how to become less dependent on medical institutions, pharmacies and big pharma as the insitutions which make them “healthy”. More importantly, the goal would have been to help those patients learn to practice self-care.

The Wrong Type of Environment For Me

The system of pharmacy doesn’t want to focus on those things because it is so concerned with the transaction of providing medication. Most retail pharmacies are too concnerned with the profits derived from each prescription a patient brings in.

After all, the key metrics aren’t about how many patients you’ve helped to achieve their health and wellness goals (whether its to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, learn to meditate, etc.). Instead, the key metrics are focused on how many prescriptions did you dispense today, this week, this month? The key metrics are foucsed on how many flu shots you gave today?

It’s hard to work in such a negative environment. An environment more concerned with its self interest than the interest of the customers it serves or the people that serve the customers.

Some people thrive under such environments but some people become bitter, negative, hateful, unhappy, stressed and burned out individuals. I would have been in the latter category and because of that I don’t regret leaving pharmacy or in my case never truly getting started as pharmacist after graduating school in 2019.

I hope that me sharing my thoughts on this gives you the opportunity to understand me better. More importantly, I hope you can relate to my story, whether as fellow pharmacist or a patient. Please share this and more importantly let me hear your own experiences with pharmacy.

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