Dr. Candice Richard graduated with her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Sullivan University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Louisville, Kentucky. She is currently working as a community pharmacist in a local grocery chain in Louisville, but her dream is to work in an Ambulatory Care clinic. Dr. Richard is happy to share her journey to becoming a pharmacist with the Student Doctor Network.
Did you have any healthcare role models growing up? How did these individuals impact your pursuit of/passion for healthcare?
I always knew that I liked healthcare, but I didn’t know what kind of healthcare career I wanted. I spent a lot of time with my grandma, who was a nurse, and my mother worked in the hospital in the field of health informatics. Also, my high school had a pharmacy track, but I didn’t pursue it at the time. Ultimately, my relationships with my grandma and mother along with early exposure to pharmacy are what led me to have a passion for healthcare.
What did your path to becoming a healthcare professional look like?
I took a nontraditional route to become a pharmacist. Most people apply to pharmacy school after completing their Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, but I became a pharmacist after working as a pharmacy technician (tech) for 13 years after earning my High School Diploma. For the first 7 years, I was a regular tech and for the last 6 years, I was promoted to senior/lead tech. It was through this experience that I found my love and passion for the field of pharmacy.
When did you decide to pursue becoming a pharmacist?
If I’m being honest, I would have to say that I didn’t initially pursue pharmacy – pharmacy found me. After being a pharmacy tech for 8 years, I realized that I wanted to be more and that’s when I started pursuing pharmacy school.
What challenges did you face pursuing pharmacy?
My biggest challenge was completing prerequisite courses for pharmacy school. I didn’t have an undergraduate degree and I had to continue working 30+ hours as a pharmacy tech to keep my insurance benefits with the company. It took me 4.5 years to complete all the necessary courses to apply to pharmacy school.
What resources did you use to help you pursue your dream?
Working as a pharmacy tech helped me realize that I really liked the field. The pharmacists that I worked with enjoyed their jobs and they encouraged me to pursue pharmacy school. At work, they supported me in my pursuit of becoming a pharmacist by asking me questions about medications and giving me insight into what a career in pharmacy is really like.
What would you do differently, knowing what you do now?
This is kind of a tough question because the field of pharmacy has drastically changed since I was in school. I don’t regret becoming a pharmacist and I definitely wouldn’t trade my time working as a pharmacy tech for becoming a pharmacist faster or earlier in the game. If anything, being a tech for 13 years solidified my passion for the field, so I’m happy that I did it.
What does your typical day look like?
My workday is 8:30am – 7:00pm. First thing in the morning, I have about 30-60 minutes to prepare for the day. This could include going over notes, resolving insurance issues, or getting ahead of the day by filling prescriptions early. Different pharmacy techs will come to help throughout the day and there is usually another pharmacist who will overlap shifts with me. Daily activities may also include giving flu shots and immunizations, counseling patients about their medications, and calling MDs about scripts or interventions.
I typically work 3-4 days a week. Most of my hours are at one grocery store, but I also float to other stores to pick up additional hours if necessary.
What do you think the outlook for careers in pharmacy is?
Right now, the market is very saturated. More and more pharmacy schools are being established, but there are not enough jobs for those who are graduating. Insurance reimbursement rates have declined and hours of work are structured differently now than they were 7-8 years ago. Higher pay favors those who are experienced in the field, which makes it very difficult for new pharmacists.
I truly believe that there is a need for our practice to expand beyond filling bottles with pills. There is a great need for more patient education about the management of conditions, and if our governing association can advocate for these changes, that might open up more jobs and allow the market to balance itself out.
There is also a big push for new graduates to pursue residency programs and obtain board-certification to earn higher pay and/or land jobs in desired clinical settings, like Ambulatory Care. This is something to keep in mind for anybody looking to become a pharmacist; you might have to commit to an additional 1-2 years for residency on top of the 3-4 years of pharmacy school.
What advice would you give prospective pharmacy students?
For anybody interested in becoming a pharmacist, I would recommend getting experience as a pharmacy tech and exploring different settings that pharmacists work in (retail vs. hospital). There are some misconceptions about the field, like job security and high income, so prospective pharmacy students need to research and understand the profession before applying to schools.
I also think it’s important to look at several different pharmacy schools because there will be a good amount of debt that is accumulated if you go to a private institution. Pharmacists (especially new graduates) are experiencing pay cuts, so my advice would be to find an accredited pharmacy school that won’t leave you in a significant amount of debt.
Most importantly, I would like to stress that it’s important to consider the field of pharmacy for the impact you will make on your clients/patients, not for the money. I am very passionate about patient advocacy and that is why I love what I do. I believe that if our profession experiences positive changes, like insurances approving more services/interventions, we will have more jobs and higher pay. But, until that day comes, it’s crucial that pharmacists enter the field to promote patient advocacy.
Thank you, Dr. Richard, for sharing your unique journey and professional insight with us!