Maybe the grass is greener…

Early in my fourth year of pharmacy school I began to notice something. After rounds were completed in the morning, my preceptor would sit at the computer and enter or verify medication orders, answer phone calls from nurses and physicians to assist with whatever medication questions or needs they may have, and then have me go through patient charts on our floor to check patients’ renal function, medication doses, antibiotics, and the appropriate hospital protocols (DVT prophylaxis, etc).

I asked myself, “Is this it?” Four years of undergrad and four years of pharmacy school… for this? 

As a pharmacy student, I got to see a lot of cool things such as surgeries and other medical procedures. But the physicians were performing them. They got to comfort patients and their families, figure out the diagnosis, make their own decisions regarding patient treatment, and use their hands to improve or save lives. 

Later that year I was rotating in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. I recall a conversation with one of the attendings that blew my mind. We were talking about medications for a patient who recently underwent open heart surgery with an acute kidney injury. His understanding of pharmacokinetics (volume of distribution, clearance, half-life, context-sensitive half-life, protein binding, and so on) made a lasting impression. I would eventually find out that he was an anesthesiologist with subspecialty training in critical care medicine.

It was at this point when I told my girlfriend [soon-to-be fiance, now wife] that I was interested in going to medical school. She said to revisit this idea in two-and-a-half years when she would be on the precipice of graduating from pharmacy school herself. “I will support you through medical school after I’m done. I just don’t want you to have a midlife crisis in your 20s or 30s.” #Foreshadowing #CouldntHaveDoneItWithoutHer #ILoveHer

After graduating from pharmacy school, I was only slightly motivated to get things done on my checklist for medical school requirements. When I got my first paycheck as a pharmacist, what little momentum I had came to a grinding halt. When you’re 24-25 years old, grew up poor, and are used to $6-12 per hour for a job, your foundation is shaken (in a good way) when you get that first paycheck after upgrading to a six-figure annual income. I bought a new car so that my wife and I could have at least one dependable care between the two of us, since we both were used to driving lemons for our entire adult lives to that point. We also upgraded our living situation but were fortunate that we did not buy a house (see 2008 real estate bubble burst).

In my next post, I will recount several of the many jobs in the pharmacy profession that shaped how I practice as a physician today.

Are you interested in doing something other than your current profession? What’s holding you back? Comment below so we can discuss.

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