Pharmacist looking for work outside of the retail setting--what's next?
March 11, 2013 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Can someone explain the best career path for a pharmacist with 6 years of retail experience as a technician, 11 months of experience as a medical editor, and 7 months of experience as a pharmacist?

I am a 26-year-old NJ pharmacist and medical editor. I worked as a medical editor for 11 months after graduating from a 6-year pharmacy program. When the pharmaceutical advertising company I worked for experienced financial pressure, I decided it was time to work in a retail pharmacy. I did that for 7 months. At the retail pharmacy, I started out with a store, but soon found that intolerable. After that, I became a floater and worked both daytime and overnight shifts. My wife and I had trouble tolerating the hours, but when I was assigned to work in an inner-city store and a crime occurred on my shift, I gave my employer notice and quit.

For the past 2 months, I have been seeking positions as a medical editor, a drug safety data specialist, a medical writer, or a call-center pharmacist. I am also interested in hospital, long-term care, and mail-order positions.

Should I get more education?

Should I change careers?

Should I do a residency or fellowship? (I'm not really willing to move)

What kinds of jobs are available to me?
posted by candasartan to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I hired a pharmacist a few years back. She had worked as an editor for a pharmaceutical consultancy and then came to us as an editor for pharma-related strategic management content - a branch of medical writing that intersects with market research and consultancy. Basically helping pharma and biotech marketing and strategy teams work out how to run their organisations better, bring drugs to market more efficiently, compete better and plan more accurately.

Most of her peers had done some sort of life sciences degree, but rarely anything medical/pharmacological. In that respect, her understanding of the drug landscape was far better than theirs and she progressed more quickly than her peers because of it. I can think of lots of pharma-oriented strategy/market research places that would snap up a literate, numerate pharmacist with experience behind them.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:40 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not a pharmacist; I worked as a tech in a mail-order pharmacy.
I recall a number of the pharmacists mentioning that they moved to mail-order because they were unhappy working in retail (due to safety issues and non-ideal hours, I believe), so there is that. One thing I liked about the job was that, after learning the tasks, you could easily listen to music/podcasts while working.

By the same token, the work was fairly monotonous. About half of the time of each day was spent sitting in front of computers processing incoming orders; techs would do order entry and item entry, then pharmacists would check/verify that things were correct. The other half of the day would be spent in a production area (assembly line with conveyor belts and automated order routing to the proper stations, then complete orders got packed and shipped out); techs did the bottle-filling and labeling of vials, and then pharmacists did verification.

One thing that would bother me if I were still working there is the relative lack of flexibility, due to the interdependence of team members -- you had to take lunches and breaks at the same time as everyone else, so that everyone would be in the production area at the same time. This inflexibility could also affect vacation scheduling, etc. -- but I presume similar coverage issues occur in retail.
posted by mean square error at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh man. I want you to know that I was so excited about this question that I finally got off the fence and joined Metafilter to answer it. IANAP, but I work in healthcare with a lot of nontraditional/nonretail pharmacists, and people transitioning from retail to alternate practice settings.

I would strongly encourage you to look at the long-term care and health systems options in addition to hospitals, especially if you can find part-time opportunities to get more experience as you transition in. Look at places like the VA, or long-term care pharmacies/consultant pharmacy firms. Dispensing in long-term care or the VA is going to have some similarities to hospital pharmacy, although you will be dealing less with infusions and more with routine management of chronic conditions, if that's your bag.

In addition, the consultant side of long-term care offers a lot of flexibility, and clinical work instead of dispensing. You generally have more chances to set your own hours/work sane hours. Consulting and working in a wholly integrated system like the VA also give you a chance to work with nonpharmacist clinicians and exert a little more direct influence over patient care, which can be extremely rewarding.

Don't give up hope! Pharmacy is a lot harder to find work in than it used to be, but you still have so many options. Think about the kind of tasks you like best, the kind of people you want to work with, what you enjoyed most while you were in pharmacy school, and what you want your hours to look like. Ask around and see if you can find people in a lot of different practice areas to talk to. People love talking about their jobs and there are pharmacists doing cool stuff in all kinds of crazy places. Good luck!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

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