Residency is a two-way street
This issue, we thought feedback from two preceptors was better than one. So here are our thoughts on “Alison’s” latest diary entry.
Lauren Bode: “Trust your instincts”
“Alison,” yes, this is such an energizing (and sometimes anxiety producing) part of the year! I am also looking forward because I am searching for my first job after completing my PGY2. Through the stress and the deadlines, though, I am so pleased to see that you have kept the end goal in mind: taking care of your patients.
It is so easy to forget in the stress of pharmacy school that getting good grades was never the point, nor was holding the leadership position. It is about learning the material you are going to need to take care of patients and about how you improve the world around you through that leadership position. The same is true when you start your career, whether in a residency program or not, in that it is more about what you choose to do than where you are.
There are a couple things to know as you go through this process. First, it really is a match. You are evaluating the program as much as they are evaluating you. This also means that you can be a fantastic candidate and not be a good match for a program. Second, trust your instincts. You will know where you want to be based on how you feel in the interview. And last, trust the process. Even if the outcome of the match is not what you anticipated, as a pharmacist, you will always have options open to you.
For that reason, I am forced to disagree with those who have told you that a residency you despise is better than no residency at all. I would agree that you can maybe live anywhere for a year, so do not be afraid to look at residencies outside your usual stomping ground. However, if you know that a program does not align with what is most important to you, it is okay to not rank it. The alternative could be matching there and not succeeding in the program.
Brandi Bowlin: Life after Match Day
Hi “Alison.” A crucial fact so often overlooked by prospective residency candidates is that a residency is a job. It is not just an extension of the pedagogical environment of pharmacy school. It is a salaried position that comes with all the benefits and responsibilities of a “real” job, meaning that it isn’t something to be taken lightly. It also means that it is unlikely that it is going to be perfect. Like other jobs, most residencies are going to have a mix of exciting and uncertain aspects that have to be considered.
To give you some background to my perspective, I am one of the many who was left scrambling to find a job after my first Match Day. It was as heartbreaking as it was terrifying. Fortunately, I was able to find a good job and begin working after graduation. Though it was difficult to watch my colleagues begin their forays into the realm of clinical pharmacy, I soon found that I enjoyed my work. I learned what it meant to be a pharmacist, and I gained confidence in my ability to handle the responsibilities of a “real” job.
To get back to your question, should you rank a residency that you already know you despise? No, absolutely not. Your motivation will be lacking, your passion will be absent, and your work may suffer greatly because of it. Additionally, a residency is a two-way street. You are being selected by people who believe you will benefit them and their organization in some way. If it is in no way a good fit, you will not be doing them any favors by choosing to spend a year with them. The risk may outweigh the benefit.
I can say all of this because I have already learned a vital truth that you have not yet grappled with: your life will not end with an unsuccessful Match Day. You can find a good job. You can gain valuable skills. You can learn how to practice as a pharmacist and gain confidence in a setting where you are not constantly observed. Then, you can funnel all of these experiences into an even stronger residency application and better your chances of finding a program that fits you.
Do not let your fear of failure set you on a path that threatens the well-being of both you and your patients.
Best wishes from both of us!
Lauren Bode, PharmD, BCPS, is a PGY2 Pharmacotherapy Resident at the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, NC, and Brandi Bowlin, PharmD, is a PGY1 Pharmacy Resident at Regional One Health/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center.