Saturday, January 03, 2009

There Still Might Be Time To Save This Kid.

From the mailbag:

Hey there,

First off, love the blog (though maybe it helps that I find human interaction funny anyway and that I happen to mostly agree with your politics). Keep it up.

My question is about the career of pharmacy in general. To feed my addiction for this shit, I've been reading through your blog's archives and came across this post:

Although this is mostly sarcasm, is there any truth to it? Do you ever wake up and truly dread going to work? Do you ever have doubts or regrets about choosing pharmacy as a career?

(Name withheld to shield the letter writer from any of the potential stalker-like behaviors I have come to accept as normal) 

Dear Name Withheld, 

Do I ever wake up and truly dread going to work? Only on days when I have to go to work. 

Do I ever have doubts or regrets about choosing pharmacy as a career? Only when I think about what other things I could have done with my life. 

Do you know what I did today Name Withheld? The same thing I do every other Saturday when I have the weekend off. I locked the door, double checked to make sure the door was locked and avoided all of humanity. My only goal today was to not see another person. That's not normal Name Withheld. The retail pharmacy career I entered into so long ago as a doe-eyed intern cost me my marriage, a good chunk of my self esteem for a few years, and too many nights that have been washed away in a river of scotch. 

It has though, given me the gift of suicidal ideation from time to time. 

You don't explicitly say so Name Withheld, but I assume you're at the point in your life when you're picking a career. I remember the specific point in my life when I decided pharmacy was for me. And I would love nothing better than to invent a time machine, go back to that moment, and kick my 18-year old ass the second after he made that decision. Don't risk getting your ass kicked by a 40-year old version of yourself here in a few days Name Withheld. Don't pick pharmacy. Don't. And I know how you kids are with chasing money and not listening to your elders, which means you probably will. So I'll give out a second piece of advice that you really need to listen to. 

When you do choose pharmacy. Stay. Away. From. Retail. They'll lure you with tuition assistance and signing bonuses Name Withheld. There's a reason they have to do that. Because they have no respect for the profession and the only way they can meet their staffing needs is to buy off enough of those that do. If I check up on you in a few years Name Withheld, and you've got a pharmacy degree, you better be in a clinical hospital setting, teaching, or doing research or the ass-kicking you receive may be from me. 

Thing is, you'll probably thank me for that ass kicking. It's too late for me Name Withheld. But for God's sake save yourself. 

Feel free to chime in readers.  


sickofstupidpeople said...

There are days when pharmacy can be very rewarding. Seriously. It's about what you do with it. If the nice patients come through your store, and you promise to take good care of them, and follow through with that promise, then just seeing those patients for their once a month refills makes it worthwhile.
I would prefer to be a travel photographer, but it won't pay my bills. So I take what I have, make the best of it, appreciate the patients who love me, and flip off the ones who don't (under the counter, out of security camera view). Then I blog about the dumb ones...
Oh, Name Withheld, I worked in a hospital setting for 13 years - the management doesn't respect you there, either - and they pay less...

Anonymous said...

Its highly likely that you've had Techs that aspired to follow your steps to be a Pharmacist...

Have you ever persuaded them otherwise??

DrugMonkey, Master of Pharmacy said...


I have a .500 batting average in that respect. Convinced one kid to go to film school. Attending his first project will be one of the happiest days of my life. The second is blinded by dollar signs. He's a good soul and I hope he remains so.

Anonymous said...

I used to feel the exact same way when I worked at Wal-Mart. Then the owner of the local independent rescued me. I've never been happier, and I can't imagine doing anything else. Independent Pharmacy . . . it's what's for dinner.

Phathead said...

It honestly takes a special kinda person to work retail. I don't mean special like "Short Bus" special, but just special. I've been doing this for eight years, granted not as long as you, and I can't imagine working in a non-retail setting. I can think of one 60+ year old pharmacist who I work with who agrees with me.

That being said I am getting a BS in Business Administration and will be getting an MBA either during or after pharmacy school because I simply tired of the stupid fucks that usually run pharmacies. I honestly believe retail would be quite a bit more bearable if management had just a tiny bit of common sense.

Then again I am young and idealistic.

Anonymous said...

I'm older and a little more jaded (than I was before)--but, still remain optimistic. I think the goal is to be the best pharmacist you can be, and when you stop being your ideal pharmacist, then move on to another place that you know appreciates your 'pharmacy'. As for sign-on bonuses, please, think of them as no more than a way to help you move to a new location. I'm not a legal expert, but it seems to me that things could change in an instant, or a little longer. And, even if there is a probationary period (without penalty) businesses can let you go as easily as not. It gets old real soon if you feel obligated to the point that there's any compromise of how you will carry on. I think you will notice when you are starting to become a 'warm body with a license'. And, if you absolutely cannot 'get away' from a bad situation, go part-time and do something else in the other time.

It's a funny thing about this profession; vertical career advancement might often be something that exists in one's own mind. If you've no interest in management, what's the name of the level if you're still 'dispensing' and running to the shelves at 65? So, I prefer to think that as I'm getting older, there are a number of pharmacy experiences to become familiar ('achieve'). (and I do not want to think of hepatic cirrhosis as a mark of having 'made it', dear Drug Monkey!)


Anonymous said...

I also suffered for many years in chain retail hell. I've worked inpatient and outpatient hospitals as well. Until I was rescued by an independent owner, I had the same jaded view of pharmacy.

I finally feel appreciated as a professional, and an employee. I finally have enough staff (most days) do my job. no community college drop outs telling me what to do.

Drug Monkey, you need a new job...escape the Chain retail world! You could be healtier and sexier than ever!

Stavros69 said...

My boss told me that at a Christmas party he met two pharmacists. They both said that if they could do it over they would pick another profession. I am a pharmacist, but work in the environment field. After 10 years working in retail I had suicidal tendency, I drank too much wine and I dreaded going to work in the morning.
I now have a job where I am treated with dignity. Presently I am on an Air Toxics team, where I get to use my education in a way that strokes my self esteem. My teammates consist of environment specialists, a physician and a law enforcement specialist. We spend most of our time out in the field and meet with each other once a week, often at a coffee shop. I make my own unhurried schedule. I am never bored. There is always a new challenge. I could retire now but I enjoy my job so much. I rather work than spend my old age golfing with a bunch of grouchy retired pharmacists.
I have traveled on the job to Korea and Vietnam. I wrote a wastewater treatment operations manual that was translated in to Korean, German and Italian. I have explained to PhD engineers why their wastewater treatment plant was not working.
In retail pharmacy, worse than pill counting, I was dealing with the management that had absolutely no respect for the pharmacist.

Anonymous said...

what else would you have done? you don't sound too old to reinvent yourself. I think anybody that goes into any aspects of healthcare needs to expect the lowest common denominator of human expectations lead to hopefully a few pleasant surprises. not a pharmacist..been a nurse forever but am feeling your pain and have not recommended my profession to anyone either.

Anonymous said...

no one says you have to stay in retail the rest of your life. if you are unhappy with it go to clinical. go work in a hospital or long term health care, or become a consultant phamacist. don't say it's too late for you because it most certainly isn't.

Anonymous said...

I don't really think you need a new job, you would just hate that too.

One option for you might be rehab and AA, therapy and psychotropics.

It's sad, really, because I love your blog. You are a talented writer...perhaps there is a career path for you there. Gee, do you think a pharmacist might ever use that kind of skill to contribute to his profession in some positive way? said...

If he ends up going into retail, maybe he'll rip off our idea of angry blogs like the angriest pharmacist did.

The AngryDrugMonkey or something.

beadybaby said...

My recommendation, if you must become a pharmacist, is to become a traveling pharmacist. If you can negotiate your own contracts and pay - that's even better, you can make twice as much money (or work half as much!) Work somewhere for a few weeks or a few months, knowing that if you hate it, you're out of there. If you love it, you can think about doing it permanently. Either get a few state licenses and have more flexibility, or just accept federal positions where you only need to have a license from any state. So many pharmacists are needed in this country that I don't think this type of work will ever become scarce.

My personal experience includes retail (chain), hospital inpatient, Indian Health Services, psychiatric pharmacy, and traveling.

RainDrop said...

I worked in retail for ten years before leaving for greener pastures in Long Term Care. The work is great in LTC, but my management sucks. I am looking for a new job in LTC I have considered going back to retail, but the idea of counting pills, answering stupid questions, insurance overrides and no refills give me shudders.

radical2xpie said...

sometimes, the elders are the ones forcing you to chase money

Anonymous said...

God, Drugmonkey, I wish you'd go to work for a hospital.

I can say non-ironically that you would probably look forward to going to work every day. We hospital pharmacists don't get paid as well, but you can keep your soul from getting too dirty.

Leave big box retail to the give-a-shit old men and the kids obsessed with dollars.

I've never seen any funny hospital pharmacist blogs out there. I promise it's not because you'd lack material.

Pharmacy Mike said...

You see, I don't really care if my customers or my management respects me as a "professional." I care that they give me a paycheck. It would be the same for any job I were to do. My dream of playing in the NBA died when I realized I wasn't even going to be 6 feet tall. I can't get paid for whatever passions I might have. Therefore, I'll take a job that pays me pretty well that doesn't make me completely miserable.

Retail pharmacy is far from my dream job, but it suits me. Maybe it's not all about finding your perfect job, but rather finding a job for which you are perfect.

So.... If I had a chance to go back in time knowing what I do now, I'm pretty sure I'd choose retail again.

spiffy said...

wake up! you probably feel trapped because you are institutionalized. after years of abuse in retail pharmacy you feel that you can't escape. you're probably thinking 'nuts to that, i know my options'. i'm sure you've considered the alternatives available to you. you know they exist. you know you can make a change any time you want to. is there anything holding you to your current position? is there any reason why you can't quit? if there isn't, you know you can't keep going like you have been. so, quit being a coward and wake the fuck up. life is too short to hate your job, where you spend so many of your waking hours. as pharmacists, we have options. don't just keep clocking in because that's what you're used to. you know corpopharm doesn't give a shit. your 'patients' don't give a shit. most of your coworkers probably don't give a shit. you're the only one that can make the change.

that being said, i work the graveyard shift at corpopharm. i used to do the daily grind, but made the change when i realized it was changing me fundamentally in a way i didn't like. nights are awesome. i work 7 on, 7 off. when i am at work, there are no people. i work on pharmacy projects and read most of the night. i listen to my own music to drown out the muzak. most of the people you interact with come from the ER, and actually appreciate the help you give them. i still have a little hatred for people, but not like i used to.

Anonymous said...

i feel your pain, radical2xpie.

Utah Savage said...

Dear Drugmonkey,
Is it the blog material that keeps you in the retail end of the pharmacy business?

I have been reading you on twitter, and knowing that I am just the kind of customer you would either love or hate, bipolar and old (now that's an odd combo, no?) and would probably look forward to the times you were working the window, so I could enjoy one moment of pleasure, that you know how crazy I am by the drugs I take and yet you still might like me. Oh yes, I smoke. If you were bipolar you might too. But I do live alone in a little house, so I don't torture my neighbors. I would bathe and be most sweet in my batty bipolar way when visiting your pharmacy. But honestly, I'd drive miles out of my way for a sweet and snarky moment of your time. You are a very funny writer. I'm betting it comes through in your interactions with the crazy ones who frequent your pharmacy. Maybe I'm just having a manic moment. Up in the night, so to speak. But, really. Do you hate all of us?

Stavros69 said...

It isn’t the customers that irked me as much as the management. The chains hire a pharmacist only because its the law. They consider the pharmacist a necessary evil. I worked a clinic that was taken over by Kaiser. They eliminated the pharmacist position. I was filling 300 prescriptions a day. They ran the pharmacy legally without a pharmacist.
As far as customers go I know that they were sick and many were irritable because of their medical condition. I never understood why they would come and ask advice about over the counter medication for an ailment. I would tell them what was the best and they almost always took the highly advertised product ignoring the advice that they requested.
AA is another laugh. It is based the on Christian revival format. Statists show that going it alone has the same recovery rate as AA. I dare not suggest treatment for someone merely because they mention that they drink scotch.
For the kid that is thinking about being a pharmacist, I suggest they he follows drug monkey’s advice. There are so many other ways to make a living that are fun and rewarding.

Anonymous said...

I just turned 40 and am approaching 18 years as a retail pharmacist, alot of it part time, because full time made me a super bitch. I am counting the years til I can quit (4 1/2). I have persuaded numerous relatives NOT to go into pharmacy. Everyone keeps suggesting drugmonkey can just change jobs-- once you are earning the good salary it is hard to leave that is why it is imperative that you just stay away, it is a horrible trap and you WILL hate people. Do something that brings you joy, not a big paycheck.

DKLA said...

Here's one of my more unoriginal ideas.

Get acquainted with a couple of MD, nursing, and/or PA students. Get them to mull over having a pharmacy in their clinic. Get another pharmacy classmate to tag along with the idea. Decent pay, moderate respect, and piss/meal breaks (sounds hard to believe but they're out there).

It's risky and you have to kiss a lot of ass (first couple of years). Do some research where you want to have it and settle.

Name Withheld, I agree with DrugMonkey on all respects. Avoid retail at all costs. The higher the sign-on bonus, the shittier the area. Corpo-Pharm will repeatedly rape your ego and what little sense of self-esteem you have left.

darms said...

Drug Monkey, I share your concerns about working retail. That said, at age 16 I went into electronics, later got training and for the next 36 years made a good living designing & repairing electronics hardware. At least until 4/2008, when my job went to India and the fucking bottom fell out of the electronics industry, or rather was shipped overseas as the powers that be clearly hate & loathe those of us who working for a living by making things.

I appreciate your frustration w/your job (and the many good entries you have written over the years) but at least you can find work in your field these days. As for me, the current economy seems to value me (& my skills) more like 250 lbs of fertilizer...

Anonymous said...

Open your own pharmacy!! There, I said it!! It is not as hard as people say!! It will take about 50K - 100K to get it started. The wholesalers will be more than happy to help you because all the big boys have their own wholesalers now. Work a couple years in retail to get the experience and the cash/credit rating. I took out a second mortgage on my house, opened my own place and am still going 3 years later. I may not get all the benefits and sign on bonuses as the retail guys, but I have other R.Ph's begging to fill in once in a while "just to reconnect to the reasons they went to pharmacy school." Take the plunge, you can always work for the big guys later when they buy you out!! Good luck!!


Nate Rph said...

I pretty much echo the other comments. I just graduated in 07 but worked as a intern all through school. It quickly dawned on me that it blew. The good moments are super great and I get so excited when one presents it self (I'm sure the reason for the excitement is that good moments are so rare). The bad moments overwhelm and crush whatever good feeling you just had.

Luckily I had the good sense to never get into retail heavy. In my last year of pharm school I started doing bench research with a great professor and it was great. It is mostly calm with moments of happy and sad. I never am ripped into (except for some retarded mistakes on my part). And I really enjoyed is, so much so that he talked me into doing a PhD with him after pharm school with higher callings when finished. I still work as pharmacist very part time on weekends to supplement my stipend. I think I can handle 12 hours of retail a week safely. It only takes maybe an evening to decompress and I'm fine.

So,the moral is, if you like drug and what they are about. Research! you get to see things work and help develop ideas that will lead to drugs but no retail hell. I would not have done pharm school if I could have. I just would have gone straight basic science

neumeindil said...

Today our newest tech asked a pharmacist if her career "provided her the opportunity for a good work to life balance ratio". Once she and the other pharmacists stopped laughing, she looked at him and said "Hell no! Only workin' here three days a week provides a good work to life balance ratio."

The tech who asked is in nursing school right now. He'd make a great pharmacist, but I hope like hell he finds something better all the way around.

Gail said...

Okay, I"m not a pharmacist. But I bet pharmacy is like anythign else - if its not your passion, it sucks. If it is, its great.

I started reading Pharmacy blogs when I was in a job I hated. I had left my tech support job for an analyst position. I had always thought it would be great - no annoying customers, no horrific problems to solve. I hated it. But I couldn't put my finger on why I hated it.

So, there I was, reading pharmacy blogs for some reason. Then, one day I read a Pharmacy Mike entry - he was talking about how he enjoyed untangling some difficult problem. It clicked. I actually missed the annoying customers, and the impossible problems.

Now I'm back, and I can say that 95% of people in tech support don't want to be there, and I do highly specialized support for a small group of generally pleasant people. It's a stepping stone to somewhere else. Some folks are trapped because what we do pays pretty well (almost as much as a beginning pharmacist if you are a senior). But, there are a few of us love, love, love it.

Anonymous said...

Dude, quit that job! I like my job! Really! I used to be a retail pharmacist for about 5 years. I quit. There are other pharmacy jobs out there and they are not that hard to find. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I work for a rural hospital and most of the time I love it! I get to do what I was trained to do without all the bullshit of retail. Don't get me wrong, there is still bullshit of a different variety, I challenge anyone to find a job with zero BS.

There are so many more options if one can look beyond the lure of the signing bonuses. Actually I did get a bonus and I get paid almost as much as I do in retail. I still float for extra cash, to keep current on what's going on outside the hospital and to remind myself why I would never go back to retail full-time. It makes me appreciate my hospital job even more.

I can't see myself doing anything else; I also ran far far away from Walgreens.

Big 'N Tasty RPH said...

I wanted to play in a band, design sports cars or write novels. Instead I am a corpo puppet. To stave off the need to shuffle off this mortal coil I go and see lots of bands play live, drive a sports car, and am fleshing out ideas for a horror fiction novel, a for dummies type book, and a series of children's books based on the antics of my siamese cat. I also fill my free time with trips to party with other disgruntled pharmacists and friends in an alcoholic blitz we like to call "17 with a fake ID." In all it balances out the uber-boring corpo puppetry with loads of mind-numbing fun.

Anonymous said...


My mortal coil sucks too.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how many people I have talked out of pharmacy.
Usually the job does it for you.
At my current nightmare, CVS, we hired a bright ambitious Dr's daughter and she has already made the right decision.


It's a loser profession if there ever was one!
Well got to go, it's Monday but at least MLK day, maybe the dozens of control rxs won't be phoned in untill tomorrow! You know that group took all their stuff watching the NFL playoff games.

The funny thing is that if they would make hydrocodone, alprazolam, and adipex OTC we could probably get back to medical care!

Anonymous said...

I would rather be a salt lick at a petting zoo. I don't know why us retail pharmacists don't end up on the roof with a deer rifle.

Anonymous said...

Everyone who says "just be happy you have a job in this economy" has no idea what retail pharmacy really means. I often think I would rather flip a burger than be at this prison which forces me to use all my mental and physical energy to churn out presciptions which have little, if any, real value to those who use them. I agree with it all..but take the risk to get out.