Professional Advice / Opinions:

Residency Experiences: Direct Impact on Professional Development

By Dr. Sharon See, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS

Sharon See, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Clinical Pharmacy Practice Department at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. In conjunction with her full time appointment at St. John’s University, she is a clinical faculty member in the Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Health in New York City where she is the coordinator of the inpatient pharmacotherapy curriculum.

I have been asked to reflect on my residency experience and offer advice to prospective residency candidates.  I completed a specialty residency in Inpatient Family Medicine with Deaconess Family Medicine and the St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP) in St. Louis, MO.  At that time, there were pharmacy practice residencies (now referred to as PGY-1 residencies) and specialty residencies (now referred to as PGY-2 residencies).  I graduated from the five-year BS program at Rutgers, and stayed on for a two-year post baccalaureate Pharm.D.  I was fortunate to have been accepted into a specialty residency without first completing a pharmacy practice residency. Although I had interviewed at several Pharmacy Practice residencies, STLCOP and Deaconess offered me opportunities that fit my career goals. I wanted to go somewhere progressive and very clinical.  I wanted direct patient care and to collaborate with physicians at the point of care.  It turned out to be the perfect setting for me.

I was part of the Deaconess Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program where my preceptor, Jack Burke, was the Pharm.D. attending for the residency program.  He was on faculty, along with the other attending physicians, and was in charge of the inpatient pharmacotherapy curriculum.  We took care of all the patients on the inpatient service.  This residency program did not have any staffing component.  My day-to-day work consisted of a sit-down meeting with the team at morning rounds, where we discussed patients admitted the night before.  We would then go on walk rounds with the attending to see all the patients on our service.  I followed all of the patients on the service, which usually consisted of about 20 to 30 patients.  I helped to identify drug-related problems, made recommendations for adding or discontinuing therapy, answered drug information questions, and provided patient education.  I rounded with the team on the weekends to provide continuity of care.  It was a wonderful training environment.  Oftentimes, the residents would wait to hear what I had to say about a patient’s regimen before they wrote the orders.

One of the attractive things about STLCOP was the teaching component of the residency.  In addition to my clinical duties, I had opportunities to precept pharmacy students on rotations, teach in a physician assistant (PA) pharmacology course, give various lectures to family medicine residents, and facilitate workshops at the pharmacy school.  There were nine pharmacy residents affiliated with STLCOP; we attended weekly resident teaching seminars where we learned the foundations of effective teaching and explored the use of abilities-based education in pharmacy.  We were each assigned topics in the infectious diseases (ID) elective, and the weekly seminars helped us shape our lectures.

My year in St. Louis was also the beginning of building my professional network.  The faculty members at STLCOP were very active in the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP).  In fact, my former chair at STLCOP is now the executive director at ACCP.  Their mentoring spurred me to join ACCP.  My affiliation with ACCP has been invaluable in contributing to my professional development as a clinician and a teacher.  It has also helped me gain leadership experience and learn from colleagues from across the country.

Today, in concert with my faculty position at St. John’s University, I am a faculty member with the Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Health where I am in charge of the inpatient pharmacotherapy curriculum. I help to train family medicine residents who wish to become family physicians.  I designed my clinical practice and inpatient rotation based on my residency experience in St. Louis.  We see patients with the team and optimize their drug therapy.

Ultimately, my residency training directly affected my career path and led me to where I am now.  Good luck with your journey, and feel free to contact me if you have further questions.  Thank you for providing an opportunity to share my residency experiences.

I compiled a few tips for you to consider as you learn more about pharmacy residencies.

TIP #1 – Apply to out of state residencies.  If you are not geographically restricted, I highly recommend training in another state.  This is a great way to gain experience in another part of the country and form a new network of friends and colleagues.  You can always come back home to implement what you have learned elsewhere.  It is only one year!

TIP #2 – Clarify your intent.  Why you are interested in pursuing a residency?  This is a crucial question because a residency is not for everyone.  What is the position that you are hoping to get in the future?  Does it require a residency?  It is not enough to want to do a residency because it is the thing to do or you cannot decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.  The economic climate makes residency training attractive; however, is this compatible with your career goals?

TIP #3 – Obtain letters of recommendation.  If you are thinking about applying for a residency, you should really start the process when you start rotations.  ASHP midyear occurs in December; so, if you are asking faculty or preceptors to write you letters of recommendation, please do so PRIOR to midyear, ideally in November or as soon as you are thinking about it.  Your faculty and preceptors need time to write these letters.  Keep in mind that they may be writing letters for five to seven students (each who may be applying to five or more programs).  This takes time.

TIP #4 – Focus.  What are you looking for in a residency?  Do you want more managerial or teaching experiences?  Look for programs that fit your interests or career goals.

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