October 21, 2010

I Finally Earned My Doctorate!!! Wait…Can I Find a Job?

by Mina Kim, Pharm.D., PGY2 Pain and Palliative Care Resident, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
By Jeff Parker
Available from floridatoday.com
This cartoon depicts an unfortunate reality over the past 2 years.  Due to the economic recession, many graduates have found themselves without jobs or having to take positions outside of their career choices.  Many people who were employed found themselves jobless with no promising options for re-employment.  The once abundant pharmacist employment market diminished as well due to a number of factors:  1) the recession, 2) increasing number of pharmacy graduates, and 3) delayed retirements.  Just a few years ago, every pharmacy student walked across their graduation stage with a diploma in one hand and a few employment offers in the other.  Now, finding employment after graduation has become a daunting challenge due to the tight market in all fields, including pharmacy practice.
A solution that many adults have turned to during times of economic recession has been more education. With the increased competitiveness for jobs, the need for additional education to boost one’s resume and career has become a necessary measure.  An article about continuing education (post-secondary education) in the New York Times, stated that most college graduates will experience five to seven job changes during their career and thus need more education to remain competitive.   Continuing education institutions also follow the job market to create programs in fields that are growing and will have job opportunities.  Some career counselors no longer encourage adults to simply follow their passion but to take into consideration practical values such as the availability and salary of jobs when making career decisions.
When looking at the profession of pharmacy, the economy has prompted many changes.  Numerous graduating students now choose to take one or two years to complete a residency and boost their Curriculum Vitae (C.V.).  The hope is that with additional training and experience will make them more qualified/marketable and be able to obtain the position they desire.  Of note, in 2006, ACCP stated that by year 2020, a residency should be mandatory for pharmacists involved in direct patient care.  Direct patient care was defined as pharmacist’s observation of the patient and contributions to the selection, modification and monitoring of patient-specific drug therapy.  Whether or not this is feasible or necessary is a separate issue; but there is no doubt of the increasing demand for residency training – both among employers and graduating students.  As the job market remains competitive, having a residency for many clinical positions is becoming a minimum requirement.  Paradoxically, while the poor economic conditions incentivize more students and pharmacists to pursue residency training, institutions have a limited ability to increase the number of residency positions due to financial constraints.
Pharmacists who already have a position in clinical practice feel additional pressure to obtain board certification through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties.  In a recently published article by Connor et. al in the American Journal of Health System Pharmacists, the benefits of board certification include “increased therapeutics knowledge, enhanced professional and clinical opportunities…greater marketability and monetary compensation.”  Although it has not been common for pharmacists to lose their jobs in this recession, as they look towards promotions, new career opportunities, and even tenure, experience is no longer sufficient.  To supplement their C.V.s, board certification is one avenue for pharmacists to demonstrate that they have attained (and are maintaining their) advanced knowledge.
Compensation (monetary and other rewards) has always played a role in influencing career choices and goals.  The economic recession has had a key role in the encouraging continuing education.  A struggling economy serves as a stimulus for people to pursue further education to remain competitive in their profession and pharmacy is no exception.  A Pharm.D.alone is no longer enough for pharmacists to secure a satisfying position or get promoted.
I fear (and this fear is possibly shared by other residents) that all the effort, energy and time exerted into my education and training (8+ years of post-secondary education and training!) will still not be enough for me to secure my “dream job.”  But I can only keep my fingers crossed – and demonstrate that I’m qualified, ready, willing, and able to make substantial contributions.
Greenhouse S.  Learning Curves on the Career Path.  The New York Times [Internet]. 2010 Aug 25  Education.  [cited 2010 Oct 17]
Connor KA, Hamilton LA.  Pursuing Board of Pharmacy Specialties Certification.  Am J Health Syst Pharm 2010;67:1146-1151.
Bright DR, Adams AJ, Black CD, Powers MF.  The Mandatory Residency Dilemma: Parallels to Historical Transitions in Pharmacy Education.  Ann Pharmacother 2010;44.  Epub  2010 Oct 5.
[Editor's Commentary:  Dr. Kim's essay expresses the fears of many graduates today - not only in pharmacy but nursing, medicine, and other health professional fields too.  While a significant shortage of health professionals remains and will continue to grow as our population ages, the short term impact of the worse economic downturn in over 75 years has had ripple effects that has impacted even the most stable areas of employment.  According to some experts the current pharmacy job market has grown tight due to two competing factors:  1) increased number of graduates (which we need to meet future demand!) and 2) a very significant delay in retirements.  In other words, people who normally would have left the workforce aren't (and this is a moral dilemma the profession must address if the over-abundance of highly qualified practitioners continues for very long).  Of course the employment prospects for Dr. Kim and her well-trained brothers and sisters is far brighter than most ... but still, its all a bit unsettling when compared to the prospects just two or three short years ago.  There is little question that medication use is more problematic (and costly) than ever and the need for caring and well-qualified professionals, like Dr. Kim, is greater than ever. However, Dr. Kim's essay points to an important adult learning principle.  Adults are motivated to learn by relevancy and applicability.  The economic downturn has made training and credentials (like residencies and board certification) more relevant and applicable!  The motivations to learn often vary at different stages of life.  In the early stages of one's career, acquiring the "right" credentials for the "dream job" is often most important.  In mid-career, the desire to expand one's skill set beyond the core professional domains is often motivated by changes in responsibility.  In the later stages of one's career, cultivating deeply personal qualities (e.g. mentoring skills, religious faith) or engaging in new pursuits (e.g. playing the fiddle, photography) begin to emerge as motivations to learn and change.  So while a recession and the poor job market may seem like it has little to do with educational theory and practice, the motivation to learn is driven by many factors.  Needless to say, the prospects of unemployment and a mountain of debt is a strong motivator!  -S.H.]

No comments: