freedom from quitting your job
Creativity,  Sabbatical,  Work

Why I Quit My Job as a Pharmacist and I’m Taking a Sabbatical

Going away cake when I quit my job

I quit my job! As a pharmacist with a great paying job, this probably seems crazy. The decision was not made lightly, it was years in the making. I am taking a work sabbatical to recover from burnout, spend more time with my family, and explore my creativity.  

Here’s my story…

How I Chose to Become A Pharmacist

How did a creator like me end up choosing to become a pharmacist? Surprisingly, there are several similarities between pharmacy and creativity.

In high school we were given a survey to figure out what careers might be a good fit for us. 

Since I like helping people, healthcare came up as a good career for me. I looked into physical therapy and nursing but wasn’t so sure about touching people. I thought about being a doctor, but didn’t want the long hours that can really affect your family life.

Pharmacy seemed like a great choice because I loved biology, chemistry, and math and you didn’t have to touch people. 

Another key question on that high school survey was to find out of you like to learn new things and if you like continual learning. The answer for me was yes, and it still is a yes. In pharmacy there is a LOT of continual learning about new drugs, new therapy regimens, insurance claims, and health care laws. The profession definitely needs people who love to keep learning.

Perfect, I thought. I’ll become a pharmacist!

So in high school I shadowed a hospital pharmacist to see what they do. He made a really cool compound and I was very intrigued. In my mind it looked just like cooking, and I LOVE cooking. I thought, if pharmacy is like this it will be so much fun!

pharmacy counter

In reality I only did a little bit of compounding in one of my jobs. I didn’t end up working in hospital pharmacy, instead working in retail and mail order pharmacies for nearly 20 years.

For the most part, pharmacy for me became a very repetitive, high stress, high pressure job. Not the creative, teaching, helping job that I had envisioned as a high school student.

The trouble is, no one tells you how much of the job is actually dealing with difficult customers and supervising technicians. How much pressure you will be under during your WHOLE shift. I’m an introvert. Dealing with people all day is very draining for me. 

What I’ve learned over the years, is that the way the skills and interests from those career tests are applied to your results can make a big difference. It turns out that there are several similarities between pharmacy and creativity that I had not anticipated. I’ve learned about myself is that I really like learning new things when they are in line with my creativity, help me to grow as a person, teach me new skills, new activities or new hobbies. It turns out that learning about all of the new drugs each year, insurance claims, and health care law are all mundane to me. Doing the same thing day in and day out does not energize me. I need creativity in my life. 

What I Loved About My Jobs

What I loved best about each of the four jobs that I’ve had over the past 20 years are the things that I have created at each of them.

My first job was at a brand new store. It was exciting to watch it grow and feel the excitement the first time we filled 100 Rx’s in a day.

My second “job” was my pharmacy practice residency, located inside a family practice clinic. I felt a longing to learn to do things that have not been done yet and bring them to my rural state. I wanted to learn to create useful pharmacy programs.

During my residency I learned how to manage multiple projects, to be a better communicator, and gained experience teaching. For my residency project I created the pharmacist managed anticoagulation clinic which is still in operation today.

My third job was at an independent pharmacy. In between filling prescriptions, I had the freedom to do projects like creating a monthly wellness board, providing medication reviews, and implementing an immunization program for the pharmacy back before they were as popular as they are now.

My fourth job was the one I quit to take a sabbatical. I had worked for the State for 12 years where I had  developed and managed a state-wide program that is one of a kind in the country. In this job, I found myself antsy to get done filling Rx’s so I could get on to the program work. That was what I truly enjoyed.

I loved working on things that kept the program growing and evolving, building support for the program, learning new skills that helped me do better at my job, marketing, narrative reports, data reporting, and networking. The creativity it took to develop and maintain the program, seeing the program do well and serve the patients well is what energized me.

I want to be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a pharmacist and I am not dissing anyone who loves practicing pharmacy. Plenty of people love it. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it over the years. It is a great career and can be very rewarding. Helping people is a wonderful feeling. I love the science of it and teaching people about their medications so that they can get the best results and feel better.

But I had severe burnout from the chronic stress and a toxic work environment. It was time for a change. I was more than ready for a sabbatical.

How I Started to Embrace My Creativity

Family of geese swimming on the lake

 

A family of geese swimming in front of me while kayaking

It feels good to keep learning more about myself and my personality, what makes me tick, what makes me come alive, and what my true talents are.

A few years ago, I took the Meyers Briggs test. It is a personality test that provides insight about how you interact with the world and with others. My results were a huge shock to me. They rang true to my core but I had been ignoring my truth.

To others I seem like a reserved, perfectionist, organized, and down to earth person. These things are partly true of me. However, in my core, which I protect and don’t let many people see, is what my test revealed. It revealed that I am an adventurer (ISFP). This is the most artistic, adventurous, creative personality. When I got the result I cried. I felt like the test really new me. How did it know me better than I knew myself? I agreed with 95% of that description. I couldn’t believe it. It felt freeing.

The reasons why I struggled SO much with how I feel at work vs how I feel in my personal life finally made sense. The ISFP personality likes to do things on a whim, trust their feelings, are creative, don’t like to plan, and like to live in the moment. Man oh man. That is me. I can plan but I don’t always stick to it! If something better comes up, I’m in! If something just doesn’t seem right, I go with my gut over reason. Neither of these things jive well in a State job!

Since taking that Myer’s Briggs test, I’ve thought a lot about my life and how I want to live. I’ve realized that the parts that I loved best about all of my jobs where my creative adventures. I’ve begun to embrace my creative side and my adventurous side. In the past I felt like my creativity and adventurousness were some how lesser parts of me. Now I know that there is nothing wrong with me. That these are actually my strengths and I can embrace them. It may just take some major changes in my life.

Why I Quit my Job

You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose Carefully.

Despite the positives in my job, it was a very toxic work environment because of the people I was around every day. You know the saying, you are a product of the five people you spend the most time with? It’s true. When those people are negative, energy vampires a person can only deal with that for so long. It is extremely draining!

If you’ve never been in the back of a pharmacy, let me tell you, they are small! When our state program grew, it morphed into a mail order pharmacy in a tiny room with no windows. Having the change from face to face customers was great for awhile, but after a year I felt trapped in a tiny room with the same toxic co-workers day after day, year after year.

I started to become negative. I got depressed and anxious. I was not happy. I had no energy. I had major burnout. Everything felt like it took too much energy. The things I love; my family, eating healthy and working out, taking care of the house, and hobbies all took too much energy. I became angry. All I wanted to do was relax. But I couldn’t. The job kept creeping back into my mind. I really struggled to let it go.

On many occasions I had told people that the program was like my 3rd baby. People called me the mother of the program. That seems like something to be proud of, right? But I heard some great advice on a podcast… don’t let your work become your baby because you’ll become too attached to it. That’s exactly what happened to me. It’s great advice! When your work becomes a part of you, it is very hard to let go even when things get very toxic.

Don’t let your work become your baby,
you’ll become too attached to it!

Instead of letting go, I tried my best to make the situation better. I prayed. I worked on my leadership skills. I worked on my communication skills. I tried to get my supervisors to understand and to help the situation. I tried all kinds of stress management strategies including massage, exercise, journaling, praying, counseling, and even drinking. I don’t recommend that last one one by the way! Different techniques would help for a while, but the same issues would keep coming back up. Nothing ever changed.

I finally accepted the fact that when the other people in your workplace refuse to try as hard as you do to create a good environment it is time to leave. I waited WAY to long. I hope you don’t! The environment had been toxic for at least 6 years. Crazy right?! I had been seriously considering the idea of quitting for at least a year.

Deciding to resign was one of the hardest and most gratifying decisions I’ve ever made. It was such a huge relief to tell everyone my decision. A huge weight was lifted off of me. I was burned out and couldn’t stand being at that job anymore. I put in my notice. I gave 5 weeks notice. Those weeks were not easy. I used up some of my sick time, but as program manager I still had many obligations to transition out of before I felt like I could leave.

What Will I Do Now?

Live.

Live the life I’ve had no energy for.

Recover.

Recover from my severe burnout.

Me at my sabbatical party

Take This Job And Shove It

I’m taking a sabbatical from work. I don’t know when I will return to the work force or what I will do. I may decide to do something completely different than pharmacy. I plan to take up to a year off, enjoy the summer with my boys, and embrace my creative side. My inner artist. At my core I am an artist. I love creating.

This year I’m going to explore my creativity and see where that takes me. See where life takes me.

This blog is about my sabbatical journey to recover from burnout, tune in to what really matters in my life, and embrace my creativity. I want to encourage and inspire others to embrace their creativity and find healing from burnout. To feel free to explore options if you feel stuck and to live a life you love. It is my journey of discovery and change, finding freedom to be myself, and finding a life of joy that I can fully embrace and love.

4 Comments

  • Anna

    Thank you. Your blog took the words out of my mouth for something that I have been conflicted over for several years. Your blog has really helped me to realize that I am not alone in this painful decision!

  • Mel

    Everything you said, I couldn’t have said better myself. Especially the part where you said you felt angry all the time and THIS: “I tried my best to make the situation better…. worked on my leadership skills…. communication skills. I tried to get my supervisors to understand and to help the situation. I tried all kinds of stress management strategies”… HONESTLY. YOU’VE taken the words right out of my mouth. Going on 8 years in pharmacy now, and just the toxic environment of negativity and stress is just too much. I have been thinking about giving my notice for months now. I just have to gather up the courage. Thanks for posting. Really helpful knowing I’m not the only one who’s felt like this.

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