Ten years of experience as a pharmacist

January 16th, 2009 is the day I became a pharmacist. Ten years on, I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. From post-graduate training to early-career mistakes and some great experiences, I took a few minutes to reflect back on a few things that stood out to me.

1 – Best advice

Early on in my PGY1 year, I was on my critical care rotation. I was working my butt off getting to the unit early around 6 am and staying late to try and squeeze every bit of experience out of that month. Towards the middle of the month, whether it was sleep deprivation, fatigue or what, I became incredibly discouraged when I found myself needing to repeatedly look up the same thing (I don’t even remember what it was). Frustrated in my poor progress on becoming an “expert,” my amazing preceptor (Deepali Dixit, and also future officemate at Rutgers) helped me calm down. All she said was, “do you think I’m an expert? I certainly don’t, but I work towards that goal every day.” Obviously she was (and is) an expert in critical care, but it was reframing my attitude towards what that really means- that is, I’m never going to be ‘done’ reading, learning, questioning. And if I am done, then I need to find something else to do.

2 – Biggest lesson (hardest pill to swallow)

Along the same lines, is that I’ve found that the more I learn, the less I realize I know. You may have seen the Dunning-Kruger effect graph, and I can be accurately plotted on the valley of despair, approaching the path to enlightenment. The further I read into a topic, whether it’s acid-base, vancomycin pharmacokinetics, or even philosophy and life itself, the more I question I have and the less I feel I know. Certainly, the pessimist view of this can be dammed, but really it has fostered much respect for those experts in the respective fields and specialties. I cringe back to when I may have been arrogant little shit. Of course, it does help to see the horizon of the valley of despair, however. How did I find the path forward? See above. I just had to remember that experience.

3 – Biggest fear

So much of education in pharmacy is front-loaded – how does it continue? Also, look around, there are either really young pharmacist within the first 5 years of training, or within 5 years of retirement. Seeing how the most experienced pharmacists are being abandoned by profession, I often think about how do I prevent that from happening to me? See 1 and 2.

4 – What I’m most excited for in the next 10 years

Artificial Intelligence: pharmacist verification will be AI, and almost everything else automated – so what’s left for pharmacists to do? The possibilities are endless. But maybe we should get rid of pagers first…

5 – The million-dollar question

I’m often asked whether or not I’d choose pharmacy as a career path if I had the ability to go back in time. If I could go back in time, that’s the last thing I would change- cuz time travel yo! But since that’s not really a possibility, dwelling on past decisions isn’t very productive. The better question is whether I’m going to stay a pharmacist – absolutely. Here’s to another ten years of experience as a pharmacist.


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