By Sharmi Patel, PharmD, MBA
Hi everyone, my name is Sharmi Patel and I recently graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, IA. When I first learned about the profession of pharmacy, my mind immediately imagined someone putting pills into a bottle. Through my university, we were encouraged to seek out leadership positions but were often convinced that the only post-graduate options were either working in community or hospital pharmacy. Through utilizing LinkedIn, taking advantage of APPE’s, and doing research online, I have become much more knowledgeable about the vast field of opportunities that pharmacists can pursue with their degrees. Whether it be a career within public health departments, toxicology, the pharmaceutical industry, or the hundreds of paths in between, there are a variety of non-traditional options for you to dive into after graduating with a PharmD. Below, I have listed a few areas that pharmacists can play an impactful role:
Long-Term Care settings
With the growing number of patients with complex disease states needing around-the-clock care and continued aging of the population, long-term care will only continue to be a necessity for many individuals. Long-term care pharmacists practice in a variety of settings, including hospital settings, nursing homes, as well as rehabilitation centers and skilled nursing facilities. They may also travel across multiple settings within a healthcare system or work within a single setting. Responsibilities are often very clinically focused, as pharmacists in these settings review drug therapy regimens, provide medication therapy management services, and act as a consultant within an interprofessional healthcare team.
One career option that continues to garner more attention is within the pharmaceutical industry. With the clinical knowledge that pharmacists have, they can serve as valuable candidates for many positions falling within regulatory affairs, medical affairs, clinical development, and commercial functional areas. From the initial research involved with the molecule to marketing a drug to the public, pharmaceutical companies are involved with the entire process of a drug’s launch from start to finish. Although pharmacists are traditionally known to be involved with the last step of the drug delivery process, they can participate in the early steps of drug development by contributing their knowledge of drugs and disease states within this sector. Looking to explore these opportunities? Many pharmaceutical companies offer internships and postgraduate fellowship programs that allow you to explore different functional areas before directly entering a role within this industry.
Managed Care Organizations
Managed care is another nontraditional path that pharmacists can work in due to their clinical knowledge and expertise. This area is often focused on offering quality, cost-effective health benefits from the perspective of health insurance companies. Many private health plans and government-based programs like Medicaid and Medicare employ pharmacists since they can offer clinical and quality-oriented drug management services to improve the type of coverage and benefits they offer. Not only can pharmacists here work on data management/analysis, but they can also help provide direct patient care through counseling, medication dispensing, and assisting with therapeutic outcomes. Like health-systems, managed care organizations may also offer residency programs to receive training to make an impact on patients’ health outcomes from a broad-level perspective.
Although rural pharmacy may not necessarily be considered “non-traditional” since it could encompass a variety of practice settings, rural pharmacists can positively impact patient care within communities that lack access to healthcare services and have increased health disparities. Pharmacists that work in rural settings in the U.S. play an important role in identifying drug interactions, providing medication therapy management and chronic care management/services, and much more in communities which are far more susceptible to poor health outcomes than many others. Since these areas also lack a surplus of healthcare providers compared with more urban areas, rural pharmacy practitioners can play a larger role with providing care and education to patients, which allows them to practice at the top of their license. Many pharmacy schools may offer rotations/APPEs in rural communities and there are often many incentives such as loan forgiveness programs to increase the number of healthcare providers and access to care.
The list above is merely a small glimpse of the opportunities out there for pharmacists. Additional degrees and certifications are not always necessary for pursuing nontraditional roles but can be beneficial for gaining additional knowledge in another field. For example, obtaining a Master of Public Health provides more understanding of population health while a Master of Business Administration teaches you how to visualize healthcare from a managerial/business perspective. Many pharmacy schools offer these additional degrees while you obtain a PharmD, but there are options to get these after graduating too!
I encourage students that may be reading this to continue searching for opportunities that may be of interest to them outside of the traditional roles of pharmacy. As the number of people graduating from pharmacy school continues to rise, it is crucial to consider alternative routes that still allow you to practice at the top of your license while leveraging your clinical expertise and soft skills. There are several prospects out there for pharmacists to thrive in, it just may take some research and networking to find! Because of my eagerness to pursue a non-traditional route after pharmacy school, I have been able to successfully gain a fellowship at the Iowa Pharmacy Association where I not only apply my clinical background every day, but gain experiences with strategic planning, grassroots advocacy, and association management leadership. Although the profession of pharmacy has come a long way and continues to evolve, it is our personal responsibility to prove to others that we are capable of more than just putting pills into a bottle by taking ownership of our futures.
Sharmi Patel PharmD, MBA
Executive Fellow in Association Management
Iowa Pharmacy Association
Until next week,