Just over half of all pharmacists (54 percent) still fill prescriptions behind the counter at retail drugstores like CVS or Walgreens, working regular hours. But the rest are exploring a range of more flexible, vibrant new career options, including providing advanced professional training and consulting for drug manufacturers, health plans and the Food and Drug Administration. Pharmacists may also work remotely for medication-management services, coordinating prescriptions for chronically or seriously ill patients who receive multiple therapies from different providers. “There's a big trend toward doing this coordination work by phone and videoconferencing so you can set your own hours and work from home,” says Anne Burns of the American Pharmacists Association.
Starlin Haydon-Greatting, 52, a pharmacist and clinical pharmacy consultant in Springfield, Illinois, sometimes alternates 18-hour days of report writing with “two-hour days, because I put in so much time the day before,” she says. “I love being able to fit my schedule to my work flow.” From her home, she also runs training programs for pharmacists across the state, teaching them—via videoconferencing tools like Skype—how to counsel patients. “Technology is changing the way we work,” she says. “One of my pharmacists has a diabetic patient who often travels to China, so they Skype once a quarter to review his medication.”
The increasing variety of career paths and technological improvements has come hand in hand with a cultural shift in the industry. “The women working today have created flexibility for this profession,” says Haydon-Greatting, who had jobs in hospitals for 12 years before becoming a consultant in 1989. “I was one of five pregnant pharmacists working in my hospital in 1983. We had to convince the administration that we could job-share to take care of our babies and still get everything done. But we laid the groundwork then—and now those arrangements are expected.” The proportion of pharmacists working part time has increased from 15 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2009; the mean hourly wage is $52.59.
Haydon-Greatting loves the intellectual flexibility her work requires. “Pharmacists are good in the black-and-white environment of science and technology,” she says. “And we're also great communicators and nurturers.”
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