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.
Jan 20, '13
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.
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
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