By Logan Murry, PharmD
Welcome back. I, and my colleagues, hope you enjoyed the article on nontraditional avenues of pharmacy practice in the January-February issue of Student Pharmacist. Now, as promised, we have some advice for you about exploring your interests and the profession.
You are an individual
I have done my due diligence when it comes to really thinking about what makes me happy, regardless of the time, money, or perception of my classmates and peers. That said, just as every patient is different, every pharmacist and student pharmacist is an individual. Some practice settings may be perfect for one individual and awful for the next. Some may love the economics behind pharmacy, others association management, while others prefer clinical practice.
Here’s how I finally landed upon what I wanted to do after graduation.
1. Be uncomfortable. There is no doubt you have heard this time and time again. It wasn’t until pharmacy school that I really ever felt “uncomfortable” in a given setting. When I was the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy APhA–ASP Policy Vice President, I was exposed to words I didn’t know and processes that made no sense, and I interacted with people I never anticipated interacting with. Nor was I confident in my ability to network or communicate with these people. Nevertheless, this experience was my first exposure to the importance of pharmacy research and policy, and my passion for it.
Being uncomfortable is truly the key to growth, and any experience that allows you to explore yourself as a person and as a future pharmacist, regardless of practice setting, is invaluable.
2. Find what you dislike. This is a piece of advice I was given as a first-year student just entering the college of pharmacy. While it may be fairly apparent, every opportunity is a chance to learn and to either rule in or rule out practice settings that you may be interested in. Approach every situation with an open mind; but realize you can’t, and arguably shouldn’t, love every setting you’re exposed to. After you’ve made that discovery it is important to spend time on new experiences and not continue to expend energy on something you really do not like and are not invested in. This isn’t fair to you or to others who may need that opportunity to find something they are passionate about.
3. Avoid FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This was a big one for me. From the initial application to pharmacy school to residency applications, the entire process of pharmacy education is competitive. As driven, motivated students, you want to succeed and inevitably compete in some capacity with those around you. You see others succeed and are motivated by their success, roles in organizations and jobs, etc. It is absolutely essential that you stay true to who you are and what is important to you. I could see my classmates applying for residency and attending the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting, and I immediately began to question my own judgment.
On paper, my classmates applying to residency and I were very similar candidates. I found myself wanting to apply to residency only because I knew that I was qualified and didn’t want to miss out on something that it seemed everyone else was doing. It took a considerable amount of discussion with numerous friends, mentors, preceptors, and faculty members before I was finally convinced I was doing what was best for me. In hindsight, it was obvious that residency was not for me and the PhD route was clearly where my interests were solidly lodged. This applies to community practice, fellowship, unusual or unaccredited residency settings, and all other pharmacy practice settings.
Do what you need to practice in a setting that makes you happy and allows you to provide optimal patient and public services. That being said, it was easy to feel myself getting sucked into that void, much as it is during school with various organizations, volunteering, and jobs. It is important to be involved, and to find what you enjoy doing and what you dislike.
You have heard from me. Now my colleagues will share their thoughts.
Neda Nguyen, PharmD
My advice comes with the following disclaimer—I do not have nor do I pretend to have the most exhaustive résumé of experiences from which I can speak. I am a recent graduate who did my best to take advantage of all that pharmacy school had to offer. This brings me to my first piece of advice: Use your resources. Do not feel limited by any imaginary boundaries that you have somehow mentally constructed. These resources can be anything—your mentors, your university, any affiliated institutions and connections, and so on.
Second, get involved and get out there. This does not imply joining 15 pharmacy organizations so that you can put it on your CV. Meet people, make meaningful connections, and figure out what you like and dislike.
Finally, my biggest piece of advice is similar to my general life advice: Keep an open mind. Experience as much as possible while you are a student, and go out on as many theoretical limbs as you desire. You still have a huge safety net while learning is your primary occupation.
Even if you do not get the job or position you thought you had wanted, trust yourself and your expensive education. Personally, it is not that I have necessarily found “what I want to be when I grow up,” but that I have found what I want to do next in my life. You never know when inspiration will hit and something will click with you. Regardless of where you go to school, your upbringing, or your previous exposures, have the courage to figure out where your true interests lie.
As the profession moves further into the era of personalized medicine, don’t be afraid to further personalize your education.
Francesca Milavetz, student pharmacist
The advice I have for fellow students and professionals is talk to other professionals. Making connections with our diverse colleagues is an important factor in expanding knowledge within pharmacy and the various tracks within it. Talking to and making a personal connection with professors is always a great way to get more and new information. All of them want you to succeed; they also have research connections, and many are willing to help you get a foot in the door or give ideas on how to get into a field.
I have found that showing interest about a field and talking to other professionals can also open doors because it can allow for a deviation in that field to tie it into pharmacy and/or a combination of two experts to create a new idea. This includes going to many talks and speaking to the presenter afterward; this can also open doors because they are willing to give advice to interested parties.
Alexandra Carlson, PharmD
My advice to those looking for similar opportunities is to talk to everyone you can. Don’t feel uncomfortable reaching out to anyone involved in research. I learned that you should try to get involved if something sparks your interest, and never give up.
Pursue the opportunities
Regardless of what your true passion in pharmacy is, you have the opportunity to pursue whichever avenue is your calling. Personalized pharmacy is just as imminent as personalized medicine is. One thing I know for certain is that whichever avenue you choose to pursue, the ability to change settings and explore additional career options is always possible.
Entering and continuing to be an active member of the profession takes thought and diligence, but with appropriate amounts of both, you can ultimately choose how we want to use your interests and talents to impact patients and the health care system.