I currently work in New York City and some nights I Amtrak back to Philly and commute back for work in the morning. However, most nights I crash with my girlfriend who is a pharmacy student at one of the universities in NYC. Being with her for a while now, I've picked up on a few “trade secrets" that are not so easily noticeable about people or students in pharmacy programs.
1. They memorize some of the biggest compound words to exist in the English language.
Croscarmellose-sodium-colloidal-silicone-dioxide. Who knew that was one of the major components of every allergy medication out there? Pharmacy students take some of the hardest chemistry classes dealing with large compounded words and compounded chemicals.
2. They have no care for humanities classes because they are seen as an impediment to their success.
Any pharmacy student will tell you how they would have avoided every class for the first two years of college if they could because of the general education and humanities requirements.
3. Pharmacy school students help each other succeed cause they know they won't survive by themselves.
Next to medical school, pharmacy school is considered the next hardest graduate program in the world with its rigor and curriculum. A major difference besides, actual content, is the way the students are among each other. Medical school is more competitive and being top dog is how medical students survive. Pharmacy school is more cooperative and with that, the students are more collaborative in their study efforts with each other and learning together.
4. Sometimes they have minute-long anxiety attacks when professors call on them in class...
Anybody can be called on, but with an intense curriculum, there's almost no time for sleep so students make up for it in the lecture by napping... until the professor calls on them.
5. ... and when they don't know the answer, the
professor makes an example of them.
Most, if not all, of the professors in PharmD programs are pharmacy degree-holders and so they know the struggle. They believe if they could get through it in their time, you can get through it in your time, especially with the resources in the world today. You just need a little motivation.
6. If they could, they would recommend pharmaceutical literature as an alternative to sleep medication.
Up there with pharmaceutical economics and pharmacy law, pharmaceutical literature is some of the driest reading material all pharmacy students have to read. A two-page history of a drug will take an average pharmacy student about five days to read. In the words of my girlfriend, “If it were any dryer, it could be used as sandpaper."
7. If there was a competition for stress-eating, pharmacy students would win.
At no point during a pharmacy student's career will they say they had no stress. Depending on the program, most if not all pharmacy students are maxed out on credits every semester, with extracurriculars related to the program itself as well. On top of that is maintaining registration and admittance for clinical, rotational programs and with most college students, a part-time/full-time job.
8. When the program requires them to tutor younger years in the program but they themselves have plenty to study, tough choices have to be made.
Many programs today have developed mentorship programs to help connect upperclassmen in the pharmacy program to lowerclassmen. With that comes tutoring in pharmacy program classes as well as general science and education classes such as organic chemistry and biology. But they themselves are overbooked with their own classes and material to study. And they're not even getting credits or paid for the tutoring done. The question then becomes, “Do I better my chances at succeeding in the program and just focus on my classes?" or “Do I help the future generation of pharmacists succeed and risk my own success?"
9. After any pharmacology and pharmaceutics exam, all students showcase the same behavior.
Some of the hardest classes in most pharmacy programs are the pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmaceutics related to systems, classes. It's almost normal behavior for students to go into day-long realm-sleep after exams for those classes.
10. If the exam grades for those classes don't favor the students, they lose their will to live...
Those classes are most seen in the professional years are the programs and when students don't perform well, they are walking on thin ice as they can be kicked out of the program at any moment for not maintaining grades or GPA.
11. ... but if the grades do favor the students, it's their destiny.
All of a sudden, pharmacy students believe it was their "destiny" to become pharmacists.
12. They believe no doctor will ever be better than them in talking drugs.
So here's my girlfriend's take on this: “Med school is for the people that want to be doctors and save people's lives. They study the human body and how it works and how to fix it. I'm in pharmacy school, I'm a pharmacist. I study how the drugs are made from chemicals that will fix the body. I am pretty sure I know a thing or two more about how the drugs and chemicals interact with the chemicals in the body better than a doctor. They should stick to the scalpel, let me handle the drugs."
This is definitely a common theme among most pharmacy students entering the real world after graduation.
13. They've all had friends try and tell them to switch into another major or program.
Most pharmacy students have been in a situation where their friends have suggested to them to switch into another program or major, seeing the struggle of trying to survive pharmacy school. But once they've had a taste of pharmacy school, every pharmacy student knows they could never go back into a simple Bachelor's program or major. They didn't work that hard to get into the program or stay in the program to just switch into another one.
14. When pharmacy students realize all their other major friends will graduate and get jobs after only four years of college, no clinical, no rotations, the depression sets in...
15. ... but when they realize they will have doctorates and start entry-level at six figures, life isn't so bad anymore.
But as soon as they receive their doctorate of pharmacy and enter the six-figure salary range among America's or any respected country's top-middle class income level, it all makes sense.
* * *
In a world so vastly changing with new discoveries, treatments, and technology, pharmacists are one of the most crucial components in the whole medical care system. Prescriptions and drugs are a vital component to the treatment for every patient and having someone who is well versed and knowledgeable in the chemicals we in-take is imperative.
Some days it sucks that her classes and studying and everything else related to pharmacy school keeps her from going out in the city or having fun or going to a movie with me. But other days I'm grateful she's in pharmacy school because those are probably the days when I'm sick and I decide to take all the wrong drugs and she corrects me. Regardless, every day I'm proud she's made it this far in the program and only has a little bit more to go… then I can spend her money!