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The right career choice for me

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Career Profile By Lincoln Alexander, PharmD

It was 5 days before the paperwork was due and I had an urgent decision to make. I had taken challenging clinical rotations early in my final year, kept my CV up to date, and pushed myself by staying involved in extracurricular activities throughout school, all in preparation for this moment: applying for residency. I had even selected references for the PHORCAS application. But I was still grappling with whether residency was the right decision for me.

Looking back 2 years later, I know I made the right choice by choosing instead to work for Albertsons-Safeway in Portland, OR. Besides, I wasn't fully committed to the idea of another year of intense training and decided against applying for a residency.

Building confidence
Being a New Practitioner caused some early anxiety, as I suddenly realized that the accuracy of medication leaving the pharmacy rested solely on my shoulders. Once I got over the thought that I might mess something up, things felt a lot smoother. Developing a routine process for checking prescriptions has been key in error prevention for me so far. I have already learned that shortcuts are never a good idea when it comes to verifying prescriptions.

At Albertsons-Safeway, I have already had many more clinical opportunities than I thought I would have this early in my career. Less than 6 months after graduating, Oregon implemented a new rule allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception. Additionally, pharmacists are now able to prescribe naloxone, and work is being done to add to this list. I was fortunate when a woman walked in on the first day pharmacists could prescribe contraception who wanted this service, making me the first pharmacist in the state to write a prescription for birth control. I didn’t have a lot of time to be nervous or anticipate this first visit, which helped me become confident in prescribing.

Being able to prescribe has changed the way community pharmacy can be practiced in my state, as patients can come to the pharmacy, be screened, and walk out of the door with medicine prescribed by their pharmacist. While this has taken some adjustment on the part of the pharmacy staff, and on patients who may have to wait a little longer for their prescription, it has increased access to health care for patients. I think patients really appreciate the convenience of the service—no appointment needed.

Providing advanced clinical services in a community pharmacy takes a lot of communication, especially with pharmacy technicians. It is important that they know the rules and general procedures for how to conduct these services. They are an integral part of the process as they generally have the first contact with the patient regarding questions about how the prescribing process works, as pharmacists writing a prescription is a new concept to most patients. Additionally, it is important to advertise what services your pharmacy offers, which can be enhanced via periodic intercom announcements and signage in the pharmacy.

Change of pace
Apart from these clinical services, I have stepped into another role as the student experiential coordinator. Now I spend part of my time at the corporate office coordinating the placement of student interns at company pharmacies throughout Oregon. This role has been rewarding.

I appreciate the change of pace of communicating with experiential coordinators at various schools and colleges of pharmacy and students regarding internships. I am able to use an entirely different part of my education. The focus is less about being a medication advocate and more about networking, organization, and planning, other skills that were wisely drilled into my head throughout pharmacy school.  

Content with my decision
As a New Practitioner, I can still say that I am content with my decision not to pursue a residency. Ultimately, it came down to a personal decision on what was right for me. But no matter which path is chosen, I believe the drive to do more, to work as part of a team, and learn to appreciate your support staff, as well as develop a strong work ethic and empathy, go a long way in making you a successful pharmacist.

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