PharmD student to Nursing school (long read)

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    So today I barely looked at a calculus, physics texts, preferring to reach for my dosage calculations in anticipation of what my new chosen career in nursing will be. The indecision about pharmacy school was choking me under potentially crushing debt and in a career I had begun to feel miserable in (e.g. retail pharmacy).

    Truth be told, I wasn't doing too well in pharmacy school and other than some personal issues that chipped away at my concentration, I simply was not interested in pharmacy at all. A few years ago, the so-called pharmacy shortage was taking shape and there was no denying pharmacists back then were paid handsomely. I had my reservation but upon completing calculus and physics 2 for engineers and with the economy starting to crumble, I took the plunge. I did well in the PCAT and was fortunate to get accepted to all the schools (5) I applied to. Just like that, I gave up a future engineering career, but back then there was a rationale: there were talks of engineering jobs being outsourced.

    Another reason I applied to pharmacy school is that I could be a clinical pharmacist even if that meant another two years post 4 years of pharmacy school. Essentially, it would be the equivalent of medical school and residency but it seemed more ideal to me. And a pharmacist can always decide to go back into another branch of pharmacy (e.g. retail, hospital), which can't be said of physicians. I knew I could do retail temporarily to pay off loans but after a summer internship in retail pharmacies, it was clear I was not applying any of what I learned in first year pharmacy school at all. After struggling to land an intern job, the hours interns received were abysmal to say the least; you'd be lucky if you get 15 hours/week for two and half months!

    I was wearing a white coat essentially to be a cashier (not what I'm paying my school for) and I saw the pharmacist (a professional) stealing a mn or two to have lunch (and her coat and purse were checked when leaving for the night). I got into healthcare because of the intellectual curiosity for science and to make a difference and while I'm aware every job has its ups and downs, I felt I was working in a pill mill. Perhaps, drop-off in a pharmacy is where an intern could apply some pharmacy calculations, but counting hundreds of pills manually (production), and tending to drive-thru as if it were a fast food restaurant, than helping at pick-up is hardly what I consider patient care. I even saw a 'floater pharmacist' work the night shift alone! She barely cracked a smile even as I prepared to end 12 hours/week work shift; even as the drive-thru beeping went on incessantly and customers waiting in the lobby.

    I volunteered in a hospital pharmacy because there were no paid positions even as I had financial responsibilities. Anyway, I was shocked that most of the jobs were stocking bottles, filling meds (mostly techs), the work was just so boring. It is nothing close to what clinicial pharmacists do (pharmacokinetics dosing, round with healthcare team and share professional advice, diabetes consultation etc...) and since the indecision contributed to my weak GPA, I'd have no chance at landing one of those super competitive specialties. I was in a top program and was frankly jealous of the nursing students. In just two years of the BSN, they'd be done and start to earn real income while I had three more years to go with very few pharmacy intern jobs anywhere. Also, there is as much drama and backstabbing in retail pharmacies than you can imagine (male and female). This is most likely every industry and so I'll have to live with it in nursing.

    I now have a family that necessitate I give serious thought about my academic future. I hate the certain stigma many male nurses in particular have to endure (I've always defended this field mainly because my significant other studies it). There are so many legitimate reasons for a career change but it can also be stressful. At this point of my life, I just want to help put food on the table and put in my hours and have a nice 4 days on the side for family, tutoring math/physics (if I'm not too burnt out). I am in my very early thirties and I cannot go on in pharmacy school without a job and accumulating more debt with so much uncertainty. Many nurses seem to be doing well financially. This male nurse I know owns a very large and nice house with his family and seem to enjoy his job (though he does complain some times). Let's not kid ourselves, while job satisfaction is usually key to a successful career, income potential in this economy has got to be right up there.

    So there you have it. I could go on about what I saw in pharmacy school and wish people knew what they were getting themselves into. Some like it, and others I know felt trapped in their agony and unable to make a career switch as they were too far along. The work is no different than what you are learning in nursing school. Yes, there is more 'medicinal' chemistry (just recognizing structures and all that), but we learn the same physiology that you do (perhaps a little bit deeper in terms of mechanism of action). It would not be so bad if you could use this darn knowledge at work.

    I barely missed the deadline for an accelerated BSN and so, I am fortunate that there is a local AS program and for which I'd done very well in the Kaplan entrance exam. I regret even starting the second year of pharmacy school but I don't regret one bit leaving it behind for nursing. Engineering/physics, it seems, would also not be quite as stable and given I have a family now, I wouldn't be able to travel for work. Thus, nursing makes the most sense and I hope to be a future (male) nurse in two years and earn some real income. I'm much more humble in the nursing application cycle than when I applied to pharmacy school. Eventually, I'd even like to go up management or even teach (pharmacy calculation/cardiac physiology) as a new DNP.

    Thanks for reading (won't be as long next time).

    P.S. Unless you are a full staffed-pharmacist, the 100K salary is non-existent. And for a few years now, there are many more pharmacists on the market with new schools spreading the pharmacists shortage. There are many more pharmacists than there are jobs and as a result, 'floaters' will not enjoy the supposed six-figure income. I've done my research. As an intern, I had to call other company stores to find a need and to work more hours if I was lucky.
    Last edit by SmoothKeys on Jan 20, '13
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  3. 9 Comments so far...

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    It's funny, your story almost mirrors so many of the stories of people leaving nursing. They were wooed by tales of shortages and the salaries of long-experienced nurses and the "prestige" and then the reality hit. And the debt hit. The unemployment hit. The ever-lowering wages hit.

    Must be in the healthcare water.
    scrubsandasmile likes this.
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    To be honest, I have to agree with the above. Sounds way too similar to the "recent" nursing situation. Too many new grad nurses, not enough jobs going around, particularly for those new grads. Have you seen the other threads? I got my RN licence in '09 and it took me 8 months to land a job. But it's still possible to get a job soon after graduating; I've met a few new grads recently at my new employer.

    Do what's best for you and the family. Times are tough. Hang in there.


    Good luck!

    P.S. As for the pharmacy not being all that it's cracked up to be...so is nursing. I know I'm not the only one burnt out from it. I question myself often, what have I gotten myself into? Well, a lot of factors go into my personal love-hate relationship with nursing but that's a whole other story...
    Last edit by Little_Mouse on Jan 20, '13
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    What career CALLS to you? Not from a financial or job security standpoint (there is no such thing as job security), but what do you feel a desire to do?
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    Thanks for sharing your story! I can totally relate to your frustration with being intensively trained for a job that requires so little! I used to be into speech-language pathology. That profession requires at least 6 years of post-high school training, but I was gradually able to appreciate that the day-to-day work of an SLP was something a 16 year old could do. At least in nursing, there's a degree of skill involved (hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, speed, familiarity with specific research-based assessment and treatment protocols, etc.) I wish you the best in your future!
    Kymberlee likes this.
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    OP - thanks for providing us with a 'window' in to pharmacist world. It's difficult to envision what goes on in other areas - the grass always seems so much greener 'over there'. I am lucky enough to be able to work with clincal PharmD's on strategic initiatives... .they add so much to our efforts, but I realize that this represents just a teensy fraction of the pharmacist workforce.

    Caution - from your post it appears that you will be getting an Associate degree in nursing. The BSN is rapidly becoming 'entry into practice' in acute care. Your job prospects may not be so great.

    Good luck to you!
    llg and Kymberlee like this.
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    Thanks to those who took time to read and reply. I'm aware that there are no perfect jobs and I suppose in pure capitalistic terms, I'm unable to take on more risk (big loans) with an uncertain future. For a while now, I've worked for chump change and putting myself through school and had big dreams for myself but like they say, life took over.

    These days, if one is able to pursue a career he/she dreamed of since high school or so, it's a great accomplishment. And if I could, I'd follow my dreams to be an astrophysicist or mechanical/aerospace engineer. I deviated from the latter because I was very concerned about job stability and employers being very picky. Besides, I do lack the rigid mathematics (reached calculus 2), physics training to be a physicist.

    My current situation calls for me to be less selfish toward my own ambitions and put my family first. My decision to enter nursing is not without doubts, however. Having reached this decision earlier this year, I missed an important BSN admission deadline and waiting another year is not practical. Engineering is out the door for now because I need to take time and complete the remaining maths (up to differential equations) and being unemployed, and the uncertainty of being accepted into engineering makes nursing the practical choice. I'm aware most hospital prefer the BSN, so I aim to prove my professional worth with excellent grades and pursue the BSN upon graduation. I went into pharmacy to be a clinical pharmacist or the possibility of another niche in pharmacy; but even if I were to stay in retail, the days of sign-on bonuses and other perks are long gone. The fast-food-like approach to patient care does not appeal to me and I refuse to get deeper into debt for that career. My decision may prove catastrophic later, but hindsight is always 20/20.

    No, nursing is not a passion, and I apologize to those who might be offended. I always dreaded seeing critical cases and so, I'm hoping I can eventually go up the ranks, or earn a PhD and teach, particularly cardiac physiology or dosage calculations. I'm new here so I hope to learn as much as I can about the profession. And I still need to be admitted somewhere lol.

    While there are no such thing as job security, we can all agree that healthcare is pretty stable. And what I like with nursing, there is very little loans to pay back (unlike dentistry, medicine, pharmacy). Four to six years of school to essentially work to pay loans is not right imho. In nursing, you can leave work at work, it seems, and most people graduate with very little debt. A friend of mine who recently graduated with a BSN looks forward to repaying her 20K loans ("in a few years") and already looks to becoming an NP. She does complain sometimes of fatigue, but which jobs aren't? Try 13 hours in a busy retail pharmacy with no real lunch breaks in between, as pharmacist!
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    I have a very similar background to you. It's not a bed of roses on this side either. It's messier and just as customer service oriented. And the starting salary is 40k around my parts. I'm not in a rural area. Think about it, you will probably pull in 1000-1200 per paycheck depending on how much you put in retirement, etc. for hard labor.

    I don't regret my decision to leave pharmacy however! It sounds like it got a lot worse (was in when every pharmD was pulling in major bank). I love, love what I'm doing right now. But I went in with my eyes wide open and hope you do too.

    Read about the glut of new grad RNs. Oh and you think 13 hours of pharm work is taxing? Emotionally yes. But nursing is so, so much harder on your body and your heart. Lifting, holding, leaning, and pulling all day. Catching confused LOLs who can kick the crap out of you.
    Last edit by FlorenceNtheMachine on Jan 21, '13
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    Quote from SmoothKeys
    ...
    And if I could, I'd follow my dreams to be an astrophysicist or mechanical/aerospace engineer. I deviated from the latter because I was very concerned about job stability and employers being very picky. Besides, I do lack the rigid mathematics (reached calculus 2), physics training to be a physicist.

    My current situation calls for me to be less selfish toward my own ambitions and put my family first. My decision to enter nursing is not without doubts, however. Having reached this decision earlier this year, I missed an important BSN admission deadline and waiting another year is not practical. Engineering is out the door for now because I need to take time and complete the remaining maths (up to differential equations) and being unemployed, and the uncertainty of being accepted into engineering makes nursing the practical choice. I'm aware most hospital prefer the BSN, so I aim to prove my professional worth with excellent grades and pursue the BSN upon graduation. I went into pharmacy to be a clinical pharmacist or the possibility of another niche in pharmacy; but even if I were to stay in retail, the days of sign-on bonuses and other perks are long gone. The fast-food-like approach to patient care does not appeal to me and I refuse to get deeper into debt for that career. My decision may prove catastrophic later, but hindsight is always 20/20.

    No, nursing is not a passion, and I apologize to those who might be offended. I always dreaded seeing critical cases and so, I'm hoping I can eventually go up the ranks, or earn a PhD and teach, particularly cardiac physiology or dosage calculations. I'm new here so I hope to learn as much as I can about the profession. And I still need to be admitted somewhere lol.

    While there are no such thing as job security, we can all agree that healthcare is pretty stable. And what I like with nursing, there is very little loans to pay back (unlike dentistry, medicine, pharmacy). Four to six years of school to essentially work to pay loans is not right imho. In nursing, you can leave work at work, it seems, and most people graduate with very little debt. ...
    Having worked as a chemical engineer for 22 years (& volunteer paramedic for about 19 of those years, in my "copious free time") before going into nursing, I'd encourage you to follow your heart. Life is too short to settle for a job that merely pays the bills. Of course, I say this as a person who had the luxury of a supportive loving spouse with a good income, a prior college degree, and a relatively short (accelerated BSN) path to a RN degree. Your mileage may vary...void where prohibited...

    Your concern about employers of ME or astrophysicists being "picky" is interesting. It took me a year following graduation as a ChemE to get my first job. If you think that nursing employers aren't picky, well, I'd ask you to reconsider that position. Especially when recruiting/training newbies, employers can be very fickle, and quick to dump a potential or current employee. As a new grad without experience, expect it to take months to land your first nursing job.

    PLEASE do not think that a nursing career will give you job stability. There's no such thing. Yes, on a short term basis, you might enjoy a job. Should a hospital decide to cut back, you're expendable. Accept it, plan for it, and move on.

    If the "fast-food-like" approach to pt care doesn't appeal to you, then many aspects of nursing might also be less than satisfying. In a perfect world, you'd have the time/equipment/support staff to adequately meet your pt's needs. In current nursing reality (at least, "reality" as I've seen or experienced it), your job is to meet the basic needs and move on. This is especially the case on medical/surgical floors, where a single nurse must not only meet the needs of 4-6 (or more) pts, but also the needs/whims of their family members.

    You are right about nursing being a job (for the most part) where you can "leave work at work." This is one thing that I thoroughly enjoy about nursing. Back during my engineering manager (facility management/production engineering/...) days, I was essentially on-call 7 days a week. Even when I left work at the end of the day, I was still "at work", subject to being called at any hour of the day/night, or having to travel to a customer's site anywhere in the US or Canada. Fun, fun, fun! Of course, I worked for a supplier of "stuff" to automotive assembly plants, so this was much higher stres than if I just worked for a manufacturer of peanut butter or whatnot.

    As a nurse "worker bee", the pay isn't as nice as that of an engineer, but there's a better work/life balance.

    Only you can decide what's right for you.

    Good luck!
  12. 0
    Wow! Such wonderful replies! Thank you for these thorough comments. This online community of nurses is composed, it seems, of individuals with varied backgrounds. I read a post of a former molecular geneticist, engineers and there are other great resources here given my situation.

    One of the challenges I have regarding the nursing profession, other than a certain fear of serious critical cases, are people who seem to think that I am too competitive for a nursing career. There is a subtle difference between a 'follow your passion if you can' (whatever it may be) with a confused look that tells all. In fact, on paper I'm not that competitive, having messed up my GPA for reasons that is not entirely academics. Still, who do they suppose take care of their medical needs in the hospital? Certainly, a healthcare team composed of usually competent nurses.

    In choosing nursing potentially, I'm trying to get over certain fears (drawing blood, catheter, wound care). It is very hard for me to see these, and so I've been researching certain niche that would allow me to help sick patients but without extensive bodily injuries. Hence, I could never be an ER, orthopaedic, critical care nurse or perhaps, even a CRNA. I can see myself as a neurology, cardiac, psychiatric nurse or any other kind without extensive invasive procedures. Yet, I know nursing entails all of these and that at some point, I will have encountered many of these scenarios. The other day, I stepped foot on the beautiful campus where I could potentially study nursing. It gave me a different perspective. Many students, I could tell, gave their all to be in that profession and I may appear as arrogant for not appreciating enough these inherent nursing skills.

    I prefer concepts to memorizing a bunch of random facts that I believe, no one, can remember them all. When a heavy dose of memorizing minutiae becomes the overarching pedagogical method of teaching and learning, I tend to not do well. As such, I never appreciated fully biology, microbiology, anatomy. I couldn't be a lawyer memorizing a bunch of statutes either. In contrast concepts like physiology, applied mathematics, physics are beautiful even if I possess no real gift that would immediately stand out. With hard work, much is possible however. Documentaries about the natural phenomena that governs our planet and interstellar bodies are immensely pleasurable. That Einsteinian physics pick up where Newtonian physics left off in the quest for the deep mysteries of the universe
    is simply elegant! And using trigonometry, calculus to send a robot or a telescope to study a distant planet is nothing short of amazing! Just as important are history, geography, poets, and authors of literary masterpiece; they too, should be paramount in educating our youths. One of my biggest regret is not to appreciate these sooner.

    And now, life has taken over and I have a 'wonderful' responsibility of family life. I don't ever want my ambitions to supersede this privilege. As the last poster pointed out life is really too short, and as he/she eloquently wrote: only I can truly decide how to proceed.

    I suppose I'm still searching for the right equation to this current conundrum.

    P.S. It would be nice to have a forum where, in addition to those where people can vent (and yes we need that too), we could exchange beautiful ideas about anything that interest you!


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