It’s so much more than just handing someone their prescription.
1. Working in pharmacy is about more than just counting pills. Before I started working in pharmacy, I imagined a pharmacist was someone in a white coat standing behind a counter, counting pills and putting them in bottles. But pharmacists can research medications in laboratories, work in poison control centers, advise doctors in hospitals, or dispense prescriptions at community pharmacies, like pharmahub Pharmacy, victory Drugs etc
2. Retail pharmacy isn’t glamorous, but it can make a huge difference in people’s lives. The retail sector is sometimes misunderstood by the general public, because people think of it as just ringing up customers who are picking up their prescription refills. That’s partly true, but sometimes you can make a bigger impact on a patient when they’re stepping into your pharmacy to refill their medicine than you can when they’re in the hospital already dealing with a serious health issue. We consult with all of our patients, and we encourage them to call us if they have any concerns, side effects, or trouble adhering to their medication schedule. That way, we can address any of their health-care concerns before they wind up in the hospital.
3. You’ll work fewer hours than most doctors while still making a high salary.
4. You’re often the go-between for different doctors. Most pharmacists can’t prescribe the drugs, but sometimes you’re the only link between several of a patient’s prescribers. A person might have prescriptions from a general practitioner, a specialist, and a hospital doctor — and those prescribers may never talk. So the patient could have duplicate medications, or medications that don’t interact well together, but the doctors may never know. In those cases, we try to resolve issues with duplication or drug interactions with the doctors directly so that when the patient returns to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions, we can explain any changes to them.
5. This job is as much about people as it is about pills. At my pharmacy, we know all of our patients by name. Sometimes I do house calls; sometimes I go to my patients’ doctor’s appointments with them on request, generally if they have many different prescriptions from different doctors. Not every retail pharmacist works like this, but I do have colleagues outside of specialty pharmacy who are also on a first-name basis with their patients, so it’s not totally uncommon.
6. You’ll have to deal with multiple prescribers who think their medication is the most important. Two weeks ago, I had to solve an issue with one of my patients who takes medication for both HIV and mental health. There’s a lot of drug interaction between those two types of medication, so we have to be careful about what he’s prescribed — but both doctors think their drug is the one that takes higher priority. In that instance, I went with the patient to one of his appointments to advise the psychiatric doctor about which medications would mesh well with the HIV anti-retroviral regimen. I try not to step on anyone’s toes or claim that I know more about what to prescribe than the doctor does, but I am able to give advice on which medications will work based on the patient’s preexisting health conditions. The prescriber is the medical expert, but I’m the medication expert.
7. You don’t just give someone their prescription and walk away. Pharmacists nowadays are encouraged to help with adherence management (making sure patients take their prescriptions as scheduled) and medication therapy management (comprehensive review of a patient’s medications). It allows pharmacists to be a little more hands-on. That means we check in on our patients — we call them to follow up about new medications, ask them if they’re experiencing any side effects, and help them organize their medications and find a schedule that works for them. We also encourage our patients to contact us if they ever have to stay in the hospital so we can report their medication lists. Hospitals can’t keep every medication in the world in stock, so if a patient has specific, regular medications that aren’t on the hospital’s formulary [the list of medications they cover], we can work out a way to deliver their medication to make sure they can access their meds during their hospital stay.
8. Financial management is a big part of the job. I had no idea how much of my job would be related to money rather than drugs. At our pharmacy, we deal with high-dollar medication, so we always have to help our patients look for the best payment options. The last thing you want when you have cancer, or you’re going through a transplant, is to have to worry financially. We’ve never — honestly, never — had a situation where someone wasn’t able to get the financial assistance they needed for medication. That’s not to say they aren’t still expensive, but we can often knock it down to make it a lot more affordable through cost-support programs, reducing co-pays, or opening secondary insurances.
9. Incorrectly billing insurance can totally screw someone. Every single person in our pharmacy knows how to verify benefits and bill insurance. When you start dealing with high-dollar medications, you have to be especially careful to charge it to insurance the correct way, because if you bill it incorrectly, the insurance company can refuse to pay for the medication that we’ve already dispensed — and once you set up that first fill, it’s being billed the same way for every refill. We triple-check every billing to make sure it’s correct.
10. Every patient responds to medication differently. Side effects vary from person to person, and every person’s individual chemistry is different. Also, there is a difference between brand and generic medications. It’s only a slight variation, but every person’s body is different, so one manufacturer’s pill may not digest as well as another manufacturer. There can be times where people say, “This doesn’t work for me, but this other generic does,” and I don’t think they’re crazy by any means. Part of being a good pharmacist is working with people to find the medication that works best for them