This is my letter to new pharmacy school graduates. It is a beautiful rendition of both my personal experiences and most importantly lessons drafted from stories of other senior colleagues.
I am writing this letter to you dear new pharmacist, not just because you’re a new graduate but mainly because I was just like you a couple of years ago and there are some things I wish that someone told me before I jumped into the society. Such important update is what I am bringing to you in this article
If someone had even as much given me a clue on some things like how to negotiate for a better pay or for friendlier work hours, I probably wouldn’t have had some of the problems I had in the past.
Hence I will itemize some of the things you need to know and guide you on possible ways to navigate your early days in the profession. So sit back, relax and enjoy this ride.
1. Do the compulsory internship as soon as possible
The goal for any pharmacy school graduate immediately after induction is to get internship. Do yours as soon as possible and move on with your life. Don’t make the mistake of waiting months or years for a dream internship in a federal establishment.
While it is good to be optimistic and resilient, it is also important to not waste your time. Internship is not a full time employment; it is a one year compulsory program and there are several sectors you can get the training from. Waiting around for a teaching hospital, especially when you don’t have the links to enter is not a very good idea.
It is indeed sad that a lot of things are not moving well in the country, but you must have to look past these things and fight for yourself. To do this here are a few options you may consider…
- Try the private sector e.g community pharmacy, industries or private hospitals. Truly most of the private employers don’t pay interns well and some don’t even treat interns well but there maybe a few exceptions. e.g Alpha Pharmacy pays interestingly well to their interns and they offer accommodation too. Similarly, Reals Pharmaceutical (marketers of Reludrine and Reals Night Aid) employ interns as well. They pay fairly well and have flexible working hours that can allow you do locum or any other private business .
- These establishments are located mainly in Lagos Nigeria, but there could be other places around the country you can check out. Go through the website of the Pharmacists council of Nigeria to check out the list of accredited internship centers and ask questions about the ones closest and more convenient to you.
- As a rule of thumb please do not consider internship offers from community pharmacies with poor rating. Once there’s a complaint from anyone about the premises, then there’s a high chance that you too will have same or similar issues if you enter.
- Price range for internships in community pharmacy and other private companies should be within 70-100k (or more) WITH A DECENT accommodation. I needed to highlight this so that you can have an idea of what to negotiate for especially in places like Lagos and Abuja
IMPORTANT READ – Dear young pharmacist emancipate yourself from mental slavery.
- If you must accept anything less than the above then at least make sure you’re guaranteed of flexible work hours and most importantly a conducive environment because your mental health is of more value compared to any remuneration.
- Join pharmacy groups on Telegram and on WhatsApp e.g Young Pharmacists groups. You will consciously and even unconsciously learn from such groups. Don’t fail to ask questions, you can save yourself a lot of stress just by doing so.
2. When to do Locum in a community pharmacy as a new pharmacy school graduate.
Some people say you can’t locum your way out of poverty, others say locum is a waste of time. Well, in one of my previous articles (CLICK HERE TO READ), I argued that you can actually locum your way out of poverty.
That is however relative and totally depends on your plans and aspirations. Regardless, there are a few cases and scenarios where doing a locum can come in handy
- Do a locum in a community pharmacy if you intend to pursue a career in community pharmacy. Starting immediately after school and even before induction is highly encouraged in this case. You will need all the experiences you can get.
- By all means also engage in locum if you need a little cash to help you kick start your desired career. You can engage in locum in a community pharmacy prior to your internship to save a little cash, get new clothes and get a little cash for your internship waka.
- For some other reasons peculiar to you, you can engage in a locum job either prior to or during your internship or even after. But never forget to devise an exit plan because in most cases your salary is static and there is generally no career growth in being a locum, except in very few cases with some retail chain pharmacies.
3. When not to do locum
Personally I have a mental picture of new pharmacy school graduates that I believe should not jump into doing locum in a community pharmacy immediately after graduation. Again this is just my own opinion.
The people in this class are mainly new pharmacy graduates from comfortable homes and/or those who have special skills or lucrative businesses they are already running or incubating.
The danger of locum to these set of people is that it restricts them to a ‘comfort zone’ that will be hard to break out from and that will also affect their other dreams and aspirations aside from pharmacy.
That being said, new pharmacy school graduates who have skills in areas such as shoe making, tailoring/fashion designing, tech and related areas should take extra care to see they’ve mastered this extra skill properly before jumping back fully into pharmacy.
Pharmacy like you’ve known from your pharmacy school days is a jealous lover and often demands all your time and energy. If you abandon your little dreams now thinking you may come to it later, pharmacy may not let you. Your best bet? Get it right with your passions now and then merge it with pharmacy practice subsequently.
You can take a couple of months (say 2-3 months) to enroll for an extra/advanced lesson in those chosen areas of interest, while you await pharmacy internship.
Lets paint a scenario…
By the time you finish learning bulk of what you need to excel in these areas such as tailoring or programming; you can comfortably walk into your place of pharmacy internship and not just be an intern but also a problem solver. There are indeed many problems to solve in the country and the more you can solve the better your chances at being wealthy.
Typically speaking, as a fine pharmacist-tailor you can make scrubs and lab coats for the medics in your place of internship at a more affordable and durable style. Yes you can because you’re in the system and you know what will be better appreciated.
Similarly, a tech bro can develop an instant messaging platform for the hospital that connects let’s say doctors and pharmacists, such that patients may not need to be carrying prescription sheet up and down. Who knows, that may just be the beginning of more contracts for you.
Pharmacy is always your primary constituency that you can come back to or even merge with your other ideas (or businesses) you’re working on. Who said your community pharmacy cannot have an extra section where you can make and sell scrubs and lab coats? Who said that you can’t be doing remote front end developing job from your home even after closing from your 9-5?
4. Start thinking of an extra source of income
Hear this loud and clear everyone especially new pharmacy school graduates, salary will not be enough for you; it never was enough for the people before you and I am afraid it will not be for you too. If you have never thought about having a lucrative and legitimate means of getting an extra income, then now is a good time to start giving it a thought.
“But for the average Nigerian who wants just to achieve a minimum decent quality of life – a roof over the head (owned or rented, with regular rental payment), two square meals a day for family, ability to pay school fees for four children in public schools and enough savings for healthcare needs and modest contribution to community development and God’s work- there is a way, which is to have multiple streams of income”.
5. Never work in a place where your sanity is toiled with.
Like will be the case, most new pharmacy school graduates will work in a community pharmacy or related place at one point in their life. Wherever you see yourself applying to work, ensure that the place is conducive enough for work. If at any point your start seeing hostility and your mental health become upset, kindly resign and maintain your sanity
READ ALSO – On setting targets in a community pharmacy
Of the many things that can drive you crazy, inadequate work environment comes top on the list. Work place abuse and general unhealthy work place setting is not something you should start dealing with as a fresh graduate.
The likeliest place new pharmacy school graduates will easily meet a hostile and unfriendly environment is at the community pharmacy level. If this ever becomes your case don’t hesitate to voice out your concerns. Do not keep quiet and hope it gets better; truth is that most times it never gets better.
When your mental health is at risk kindly throw in the resignation letter and have peace of mind. People often tend to stick to a displeasing job because of the fear of the unknown; the fear of being without a job and/or the fear of not getting a better paying job. But you will never know till you try. I promise there are better options out there for everyone, just dare to try.
6. Plan well before you relocate to a new state.
Plan yourself well before you relocate to a new state like Lagos or Abuja or even abroad in search of greener pastures. There are immense financial and psychological implications of relocating that people (especially new pharmacy school graduates) often don’t consider before they pick their bags.
Firstly, be sure to be financial prepared before leaving your place of residence in search of greener pastures. Like they will casually say online “curtains are now very expensive”. If you’re intending to move to Lagos or Abuja for internship or NYSC ensure you have at least good friends or family that are willing to accommodate you before you find your feet. It can be a rocky start for you if you do it all alone and without good financial backing.
Moreover be psychologically ready for what may come with relocating. There are moments you will feel very lonely and depressed. There are also times that you will miss home and your friends so much that all you probably want will be to go and be with them, but you can’t. You need to get prepared for these times right before you even consider relocating.
7. Weigh your immigration chances early enough and make a decision
Migrating abroad looks like the most fashionable thing to do now, especially with the internet filled with pictures of people in snow and all the other aesthetic stuff. However, that may not tell the whole story. Behind those smiles in pictures can be pain and other untold difficulties.
People regardless migrate abroad for so many reasons ranging from accessibility to better infrastructure and/or establishment of a better platform for their children. Whichever is your reason, be sure your mind is made up on time and that you’re not just following trends.
Once again, congratulations on successfully finishing pharmacy school without breaking. See you on the other side of victory.