Finding solid footing at the end of the (residency) path
There it is: the countdown to the last day of residency. Perhaps the remaining number of days as a learner is etched into the whiteboard on the residents’ office or written as a reminder of the impending transition to independent practitioner in your personal planner. Whichever way marks the passage of time in the program, what is likely a shared experience is the realization that the day is coming soon when you will be the go-to person for an entire service (or multiple) and for crafting innovative solutions to complex medication-related issues. Yes, your days may continue to be marked by topic discussions, in-service presentations, and continuing education seminars, but now you will be the expert, sans training wheels.
Imposter Syndrome creeps in
In the final third of the residency year, preceptors assume residents will start a rotation hitting the ground running. At baseline, a familiarity with workflow, competency in delivering exceptional patient care, and ability to contribute in a meaningful way to interprofessional teams are expected. On my most recent rotation, I felt empowered by the opportunity to precept two learners in addition to taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of running the service. This confidence, however, was intermittently tempered by encountering the occasional curveball question from the attending physician or an unexpected hiccup in transitions of care planning. With only days left as a trainee, this dichotomy of certainty in my abilities as a pharmacist with dependence on my preceptors for certain questions threw me for a loop. When Imposter Syndrome reared its head, I was left flustered.
Looking for advice on how to effectively navigate this balancing act between “Yes, I can” and “I am less sure,” I reached out to preceptors, mentors, and co-residents. I found their advice (summarized below) to be helpful in framing my perspective on my remaining time as a resident.
1. Recognize that “lifelong learning” is an oft uttered phrase for a reason. Even pharmacists who have been on the same service(s) for years pursue continuing education opportunities.
2. Once you are no longer a resident, your prior preceptors and co-residents—now colleagues—will continue to be a resource. Do not hesitate to reach out. Sharing pearls and comparing practices on different services or various institutions will foster a healthy dialogue.
3. Learn from your learners (pharmacy residents, students, medical residents, etc.), too!
4. Finding enjoyment in your practice for the long haul will likely require “extracurricular” involvement. Collaborating on papers, committees, and presentations can continue to build your confidence and knowledge base.
5. The increasing amount of trust that preceptors and other members of the interdisciplinary team have in a resident’s ability to run a service is indicative of growth. More often than not, preceptors will express any concerns to a resident in the moment (and well ahead of the PharmAcademic evaluation time).
In short, no one practitioner has all the answers. Recognizing the many resources available beyond residency training will ease the impending transition into a fully-fledged, independent practitioner.
Grace Baek, PharmD, is a PGY2 oncology pharmacy resident at University of Washington Medical Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle, WA. She loves strong cappuccinos, running outdoors, exploring local eateries, and spending quality time with family and friends.