Becoming a Clinical Retail Pharmacist, Part 1.

Clinical Pharmacy vs. Retail Pharmacy; This has long been a source of debate involving practicing pharmacists, pharmacy professors, pharmacy students and sometimes even people outside of the profession. In recent times it seems that schools are pushing students more and more to pursue clinical pharmacy. I hear this all too often from the students I precept or those that work with me as interns. It makes sense to me that this is happening since the vast majority of the faculty at pharmacy schools are clinical pharmacists. Recently I started to wonder if there was a possibility that you could do both (without having 2 jobs). Can a pharmacist be a clinical pharmacist and a retail pharmacist simultaneously? The answer I came up with? Certainly.

Note: After I began writing this post I realized I have A LOT to say about this topic and decided it would be best to divide it into multiple parts/posts, so stay tuned or subscribe to read the rest.

I definitely struggled when choosing to pursue a career in either clinical or retail pharmacy. I would have struggled even more with my career choice had I investigated the countless other career options available to graduating pharmacists (managed care, nuclear, industry, etc.). Ultimately I chose retail. Although there are many challenges and every day isn't sunshine and rainbows, I still firmly believe that I made the right choice.

When I began practicing I had a ton of ideas about how I could be innovative and really positively contribute to patients’ health and overall well-being. Then, a few months later, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Being a retail pharmacist (especially if you are the pharmacist-in-charge) is often times a difficult job; even more so when your technician hours are cut or someone calls in sick, corporate wants more flu shots, patients are yelling at you, etc. There is not much brain space left to be innovative and come up with cutting-edge patient care solutions when you’re struggling to just keep the pharmacy afloat.

However, I firmly believe that you can accomplish anything you want to if you commit yourself to it and constantly work hard towards that goal. I know it sounds cliché and may not perfectly align with a traditional pharmacy career but a traditional pharmacy career is not even remotely what I want for myself. So once I got better at being a manager (improving this greatly frees up your time) I began to focus on further developing my clinical skills and figuring out the best way to integrate them into my practice. I decided the first step would be to learn as much as I could from as many sources as possible since I would not have the structure of a residency program like many of today’s clinical pharmacists had prior to practicing independently.

There are so many great sources of education and information available today for pharmacists. I was, and remain, extremely excited about how much I can learn by just using a few of these resources. I have been developing my clinical knowledge by employing a few different tactics and I will discuss those in part 2 of this series.

The key takeaway here is not only do I think being a clinical retail pharmacist is possible, I believe it is absolutely necessary in order to deliver the high level of patient care that our patients require to be as healthy as possible.