The crossover potential of nursing and pharmacy work

Paige Twenter – Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

When Gina Batterman, RN, was pursuing her nursing degree with the goal of working in pharmacy, her professors thought she was crazy.

“You can’t go into pharmacy as a nurse,” she remembers being told.

Ms. Batterman began her healthcare career as a pharmacy technician and considered going to pharmacy school but did not have the grades needed for the competitive field. After pivoting and earning an RN degree, she was a part-time urgent care nurse on weekends and nights while also working in prior authorization pharmaceutical services at Madison, Wis.-based UW Health.

Ms. Batterman now serves as the supervisor of pharmacy reimbursement at UW Health, where she handles the idiosyncrasies of reimbursement and high-cost, clinic-administered infusion medications.

“I find it really interesting. I love it — we’re on the cutting edge,” she told Becker’s.

Her career path is not common: Some nursing students and recent nurse graduates work as hospital pharmacy technicians before landing a nursing job. But most do not return to pharmaceutical work, Cecilia Costello, PharmD, medication systems and operations manager for inpatient pharmacy at Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth Health, told Becker’s.

Although the career move is rare, some programs have sprung up. In Erie, Pa., the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offers an RN to PharmD Bridge program, and in late June, the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs launched the nation’s first and only certification for nurses looking to jump into the biopharmaceutical industry.

“Having someone having one mindset, then going in and learning how to apply a new lens, I think that would be really beneficial,” Joe Burczynski, PharmD, executive director of pharmacy services at Syracuse, N.Y.-based SUNY Upstate Medical Center, told Becker’s.

“I wouldn’t want to be promoting somebody leaving such a needed profession,” he said. “But I think it could make for a really well-rounded and effective pharmacist, too.”

There are a few reasons why a nurse might want to become a pharmacist, including a work schedule free of night and weekend shifts, according to a March LinkedIn article about the nursing-to-pharmacy transition. Another incentive is the $40,000 difference in pay — the average nurse’s salary is $89,010 and the average pharmacist earns $129,410 per year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“There’s always this typical stigma that you’re gonna go work on a unit or work in a clinic or inpatient or whatever as a nurse,” Ms. Batterman said. “But there’s so many opportunities for nursing out there.”