Three things to do before you quit the profession

young pharmacist or doctor with "talk to the hand" body language

Thinking of quitting the profession? There’s three things you need to think about first, writes Vanessa Lontos…

Recently in pharmacy media both in Australia and the UK there has been suggestion that there is a growing number of pharmacists considering leaving the profession. 

The AJP ran a poll with an unprecedented 1000-plus responses – with an overwhelming 82% suggesting that they are reconsidering their future in community pharmacy. 

While this did shock me a little (!) I have to admit, I haven’t been immune to this feeling either, and back in 2009 one could argue I did in fact quit.

I was burnt-out, tired and disillusioned by what my role had become. I knew I wanted to help patients improve their health, but this wasn’t how I was spending my days.

And so I did leave, but upon reflection my leaving was actually more like a pilgrimage, and I returned only this time more passionate and reassured.

And so before you quit, I hope you consider these three things first…


Remember why you started

Recently my little girl started ballet at the National Ballet Theatre here in Melbourne. 

On our first day while waiting in the foyer I was reading a number of notices on the noticeboard.  In among the class timetables and pictures of gala performances was this poster…

before you quit remember why you started

I immediately thought of myself and other pharmacists I have coached over the past two years, and how it’s always been fascinating to me that almost 100% of them, when asked the question, “Why did you become a pharmacist?” will answer, “To help people with their health”.

So before you quit, spend some time thinking about how have you been helping people with their health. Are you getting caught up in the processes of dispensing, or are you engaging with your patients, stepping into an expanded health conversation and really making a difference to their health? 

I’ve learned that you can’t be in-process and having impact at the same time. 


Go on your own pilgrimage

The truth is for many of us, the decisions we make at 18 about what we want for our lives is not the same as what we want at 35, or 45 or even 60!

By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

I think in simple terms it’s a journey in search of what is true for you. If in your heart of hearts you really do want to be a personal trainer or a painter, or an author, or a chef, or a dancer, then make time in your life and explore that – go and do it! 

But in this process, if you truly do keep being called back to your role as a pharmacist, then maybe what you are actually searching for is something new within your own pharmacy that more closely and truly reflects what you want for yourself and your patients. 

If this is the case, give yourself even just 15 minutes per day being that pharmacist. And go on a journey within the industry and within your own pharmacy to create it consistently. 

Then see how you feel. We often run away from that which we want because we don’t know how to create something new within it.


Focus on what you can control

As humans we hate uncertainty and we do everything we can to avoid the feeling. We are hard-wired to prioritise things that make us feel safe and secure and leave those that make us feel unsafe and uncertain. 

So in the current turbulent times in pharmacy, it’s very natural and expected that many are feeling overwhelmed and want to leave.

However there is a strategy that can help you and it works – bring your focus to what you can control. 

In every pharmacy there is one very powerful place of control, and that is the experience you create for each of your patients. This means, for example, the access they have to you, the type of conversation they have with you and the health resources and services they can access through you. 

You don’t have to revolutionise your pharmacies to take back control, you just need to focus on being truly engaged with your patients and making a difference to them. After all, and it seems, that this is why most of us have chosen this path after all…


Vanessa Lontos is a community pharmacist, coach and founder of The Care Project. Vanessa helps pharmacy owners, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants improve patent engagement and create the changes needed to build health and wellness services in their pharmacies.


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  1. Bruce Annabel

    Well said Vanessa! I agree with your key points about passion (reason for being), fabulous opportunities available and role as a patient’s trusted medication and health adviser. I observe these traits and behaviors in the stand out health solution service pharmacies I interact with constantly who are both competitive (not based on lower prices) and financially viable. Your points are the key to community pharmacy overcoming price disclosure, competing and lifting relevance to payers, patients and government.

  2. Jezla

    Pharmacy is a dead profession, overworked, under paid

  3. Big Mac

    I can earn $59/hr normal and $85/hr OT as a diesel fitter. Yup. $152k per annum. No pilgramige nonsense either. The pharmacy profession has to get real if it expects 5 year uni courses to yield $30/hr. 5 years work and I am buying up property in my 20’s….for retirement in my 40’s….

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