A pharmacist can build existence and a career in private healthcare too
Thursday, 13 January, 2022
When it comes to career alternatives for pharmacist, the top three contenders are usually hospital-clinic, public sector or industrial pharmacology. However, pharmacy as the main back-office profession of healthcare is an attractive future plan for many due to its diversity. And this does not only mean pharmacists working in hospitals and behind pharmacy counters. A less popularised but even more interesting potential is in pharmacy officers handling official regulations, or the real rare breed of the profession: a private pharmacist. We have discuss the peculiarities of this profession with dr. Balázs Hudomel, Pécs alumni, former head pharmacist of the Szigetvár City Hospital and former private pharmacist of the Pécs Da Vinci Private Clinic.
written by Dávid Lokodi
-It’s not the tasks that are different for a private pharmacist, it’s how employment works – explains Balázs. However, there is a much lighter emphasis on private sector options of pharmacist, than on the public sector opportunities. In order to understand private pharmacists and pharmacists also working in the private healthcare sector completely, we need to make a distinction between the two.
Balázs, tell me about your professional career. How did you end up in the gravity of pharmacy, and why did you take a shining to the profession?
The medical profession has been “hereditary” in the paternal line of our family for generations. My father is a doctor, my mother a pharmacist, therefore I can say that my brother and I grew up in an environment tightly interwoven with healthcare views. Since we lived in the building of a pharmacy for years, I got captivated by the pharmacy feel and smells even as a child. When I was faced with career choices at the end of secondary school, it was quite obvious that I would be choosing either medicine or pharmacy.
If you asked my secondary school chemistry teacher, they would not have bet a single penny on me getting admitted into the pharmacy program (pharmacy was still a program then, not a separate faculty), let alone graduating from it. I think this is my proudest moment – being able to prove my teacher wrong.
As you progress in your university studies, career choices start opening up. I believe that we live through phases in everything, even in pharmacy studies.
For example: during my studies, I would have liked to become a pharmaceutical sales representative, but as the years went on, my interests also changed and I ended up turning more towards traditional pharmacy. And it was only luck that I was able to try so many things in so little time.
You have gone through multiple branches of pharmacy. You have worked in a hospital-clinical environment, even getting to the very top and working as head pharmacist in Szigetvár. You are currently in the public sector, behind the counter in a pharmacy. But let’s talk about the probably most important part of your career, being a private pharmacist. How did you end up in the Pécs Da Vinci Clinic?
After university, I found employment in a pharmacy belonging to a now long-forgotten pharmacy branch – I then left it to work in the Szigetvár hospital, where I later became head pharmacist. It was during this time when I received the offer from Da Vinci Clinic, and this is how I started my work there, as private entrepreneur.
So we really could call you a private pharmacist? What exactly does this branch of the profession mean?
I would not call myself that. Since it was only a side gig, a part-time job at that time, I was mainly a hospital pharmacist who also happened to work as a private entrepreneur at a different clinic. Later, when I was not working at Da Vinci Clinic or in Szigetvár I still took on substitute shifts beside my full-time job. That was obviously another different workplace I had to adapt to.
Circling back to the original question, I do not think a private pharmacists (let’s call them that) are any different from others, since they fulfil the same roles, but under different circumstances. Let me clear up the term a bit. I am not sure that making the distinction for private pharmacist as a career option is worthwhile, but it is definitely an option for employment.
The term rather means a pharmacist who offers their services as some sort of private entrepreneur, as their own marketing agent. Based on this definition, the term applied to me while I was working at Da Vinci Clinic.
I was asked to take on tasks there as a private entrepreneur pharmacist, and I could do that as a part-time job. It was especially easy, since I was basically doing the same tasks as in Szigetvár, with only minor differences. Since they were handling inpatient care, they needed a separate room for storing medicine, and a person to manage stocks.
Hopefully, this can clear up, that when we talk about private pharmacists, we are mainly focusing on a form of employment, not a different set of tasks. The latter depends on what kind of medical care the employing institute offers.
What does an average day look like in the life of a private pharmacist? What were your tasks at Da Vinci Private Clinic?
To be honest, it did not really differ from my work at the hospital. Since they had a smaller inpatient department, there was less work. Therefore, if I remember correctly, my contract was for 60 hours per month. I was handling medicine orders, being in constant contact with the surgery officer and the department nurses, making sure that if the clinic needed something, I could contact the university pharmacy and order what was needed. Later they also made a contract with the Szigetvár City Hospital, so if there was urgent need for some kind of medicine, I could deliver it to them.
It is important to emphasize that while I was working there, the clinic was still new, and the department for plastic surgery was on the rise. It would definitely be a different job now; maybe they would need a full-time pharmacist.
What are the monetary requirements of being in the private sector? Is it an attainable career goal for a student? Or is making a living in the private sector difficult?
The previously discussed topics have hopefully made clear that as far as money goes, this is a job that provides very free movement. Obviously, there is an unsaid professional average under which you would not want to work; but as with all salaries, this keeps changing as well.
I would definitely suggest to young pharmacists that they try themselves in a situation where there is no boss or institution behind them, where they have to build on their own knowledge and experience and make the best of it.
Looking back now, I can see that I have learned a lot in these positions, and therefore I would suggest to everyone to try the private sector as well. It is easy to do with one of the current simple employment forms as a part-time job.
I have already mentioned that I took on substitute shifts in a public pharmacy. Due to the lack of professionals, this is becoming even more needed these days. The advantage is that you can bargain for an hourly wage that can have a wide range. However, the downside is that you might have to work in a different place every week, and having a stable substitution offer from one place is very rare. Winning part of the market over is easy these days, because there is a high demand for professionals.
It is important to keep in mind to make the best of the situation with the best of our abilities. Starting just for the money is not worth it; I think the focus should be on building a good professional background. It is important to make colleagues who work full-time in the same place accept you, to look at you as equals, not only as someone who is only there for a few hours sometimes. This makes working together much easier.