Magazine article Drug Topics

The Shell Game

Magazine article Drug Topics

The Shell Game

Article excerpt

IN MY view

Magic tricks and sleight of hand have always fascinated me. How DO they do that? The essence of a magic trick is the mislead: to make the audience see and think one thing, when actually something else is going on.

One trick everyone is familiar with is the shell game. It looks simple. The game's operator moves three shells back and forth quickly over a ball; when he stops, an observer has to guess which shell is covering the ball.

When the betting starts, the player, or "mark'' (the sucker the operator targets for fleecing), always wins. So the mark feels confident and raises the bet, encouraged by the operator's accomplices ("shills") in the crowd. It's when the mark starts losing and complains that things get ugly. Since the game is rigged, the mark ends up losing every cent.

The pharm school game

Pharmacy education today is another type of shell game.

Initially, it's all good. You're a new student, early into the debt cycle and constantly reminded of all the money you'll make as a pharmacist in just a few short years. You'll have to study hard, for sure, and the competition is intense for a limited number of spots in pharmacy school, but you just have to keep your eyes on the prize. Things will be great. (You're gonna be a winner: Phase one of the shell game.)

If you work hard and are fortunate, you're admitted to pharmacy school. The first couple of years are difficult, but you're still looking ahead to the future. Nonetheless, your parents are uneasy about your escalating debt burden, and in the back of your mind, you are too.

Another thing that bothers you is that you have applied for some pharmacy jobs as an intern or tech and been told there are no openings. You remember that older friend from your town, the one who told you it was easy to get a summer job with a chain when she was in pharmacy school just a few years ago. You wonder what happened. Most of the places you visit look really busy, and you wonder why they aren't hiring. (This is the "I might want to get out of the game" part.)

Then in your fifth year, right before rotations, you start hearing that the job market is tight. Really tight. Lots of new pharmacy schools are opening, and some of the older students are admitting that they don't actually have a job lined up for after graduation. …

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