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It's graduation time! A time of limitless possibilities, hope, opportunities......and responsibilities. Your career is a blank slate, what will you do with it?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have everything figured out. Many expect to ("poof!") have all of the answers when they graduate and step into the job of their dreams. Sometimes that happens, but rarely. Usually our path takes us through winding roads, a few pot holes, and unchartered territory.

Dont expect to be perfect...right away
Pharmacists are perfectionists by nature. We have to be anal because a couple letters can make a big difference in a medication. An extra zero can have a huge effect on a clinical outcome. We are programmed to pay attention to the details. So take your time, ask questions, and look things up when you need to.

You will make a mistake; how you handle it is important
When I graduated and took my first job I quadrupled everything. I was slooowwww, but I don't think it was such a bad thing. You don't want your pharmacist blowing through all of those red interaction screens, right?! And over time you learn which interactions are clinically significant....but what if you miss something? Or give the patient the wrong medication or wrong dosage? It's hard when you aren't familiar with dosages yet and you may find yourself verifying the wrong dose for a patient. Most systems try to put in good quality assurance check points to stop these mistakes from happening, but what if it falls through the cracks? How do you deal with the aftermath? You have to own the mistake, don't shift the blame. Apologize if you need to, fix the mistake, and learn. Sometimes mistakes may have big consequences and leadership and others will get involved. It can be very discouraging. Understand that even the best people make mistakes. Have a humble attitude and move forward.

One step back, two steps forward
I feel like I'm seeing his pattern more and more in my career. Sometimes you lose the battle but win the war. Sometimes you take a great leap, sometimes you move more horizontally than vertically. Not every career move is a perfect step up the run of the career ladder. Trust that you will get to where you want to go - it will take time, hard work, and persistence.

Be nice to your technicians, nurses, assistants.....everyone!
Your technicians can make or break your day. They can make your job easier, they can make you laugh, and they can triage some real problems. Your nurses can all be big allies in getting the best care to the patients. Don't be a barrier, work together and be part of the team. One of the residents I trained just got a great job and now she's over a lot of people who trained her! So be nice to your residents too - they are learning just like you.

Make sure you never stop learning
Never get comfortable. There will always be something clinically that you do not know. New medications and procedures come out all of the time. Stay current; guidelines are updated every few years - make sure you know what has changed.
Never get too stuck in your ways either. The phrase "this is how we've always done it" should not be in your vocabulary. Be open to change and don't be one of the late adopters (to positive change). Healthcare is always changing. Insurance companies change the coverage rules, your health system adopts a new software system, some other technology changes, your staffing model changes, you get a new building, etc..... You need to be someone who thrives in this environment rather than someone who resists while kicking and screaming.

Have fun
Don't be so serious. Yes, there is a lot at stake, but that doesn't mean you have to be grumpy all of the time. I was so solemn and stern when I first started. I looked very young and was so worried about making a mistake, not being fast enough or not being respected.

One weekend I was especially stressed because our queue was very backed up. I was working with three technicians who were very good and we were all doing our best to get everything done. Two of the guys were working hard, but still talking and laughing...one of them said to me that I should smile more because I looked pretty when I smiled! This has nothing to do with the pretty comment and everything to do with me feeling stressed and being serious all of the time. The work would get done at the same pace regardless. Be pleasant and have fun at your job.

PracticeJoanna Simmon