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Mayo's Diversity of Practice Appealing to Pharmacists

Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos
Published Online: Sunday, February 1, 2009   [ Request Print ]

Staff Writer

The Mayo Clinic is world-renowned for its patient care, integrated clinical practice, education, and research. For graduating pharmacy students, the Mayo Clinic can lead to a rewarding career as part of a health care team that is focused on putting the patients' needs first.

Known as the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world, the Mayo Clinic was named "Best Hospital" for the 19th consecutive year in the U.S. News & World Report 2008 America's Best Hospitals issue. The publication also again named the health system to its honor roll of top hospitals. To make the honor roll, a medical center has to rank at or near the top in at least 6 of the 16 specialties included in the rankings. The Mayo Clinic scored in the top 5 in 12 specialties and ranked first or second in 7 specialties.

The Mayo Clinic has 3 locations in Rochester, Minnesota; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as 17 hospitals in the Mayo Health System in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Pharmacists can choose a career in inpatient or outpatient pharmacy—both areas offer opportunities for advancement within the Mayo family. The outpatient pharmacy in Rochester fills 20,000 prescriptions a week and has 150 employees, explained Harlan Langstraat, RPh, vice chair, Medical Products, Mayo Clinic Health Solutions. Langstraat has worked in the Rochester location for 9 years.

The outpatient pharmacy hires a significant number of new pharmacists each year. In addition to a traditional pharmacist position, pharmacists can work in medication therapy management (MTM), specialty pharmacy services, and research. Pharmacists also can work in 2 pharmacies that do not stock medications or fill prescriptions. Instead, the pharmacist's primary role is counseling patients, according to Langstraat.

"It is a wonderful place for young pharmacists, because it offers such diverse practices and so many areas they can gravitate toward," he said.

In his experience, Langstraat is seeing incoming pharmacists focused on clinical pharmacy services, which is a reflection of the education they are receiving today. Graduating pharmacists are doing more with MTM, clinical, and specialty pharmacy services. "We are fortunate in that we can offer these services," he said.

The advantages of working at the Mayo Clinic are numerous. Langstraat goes back again to diversity of practice. "A pharmacist over time can work in many different positions. It is a wonderful environment with true collaboration with clinical departments. The Mayo Clinic also has world-class facilities, focuses on the needs of patients, and is on the cutting edge with its involvement in clinical trials."

In terms of employment, Langstraat said that, because of the shortage of pharmacists, "we can be selective with the candidates we hire." The criteria they look for in potential pharmacy graduates include high-quality clerkships and their experience during summers with advancing their knowledge of pharmacy. He points out that Mayo hires from different pharmacy schools. Every year, the Mayo Clinic recruits at 15 pharmacy schools with a number in the Midwest. New pharmacists are trained in a traditional pharmacy setting, and the remaining training is in areas in which they are going to work.

The Mayo Clinic Pharmacy offers a variety of 5-week clerkship programs to students in their final year of pharmacy school. Individuals completing the ambulatory care rotation will further develop their skills in providing MTM to a variety of patients. The pharmacy management rotation is designed to expose the student to issues affecting pharmacy management, and the pharmacy research rotation allows the student to explore the pharmacist's role in outpatient dispensing of investigational medication.

In terms of internships, "We focus on getting students from different colleges of pharmacy. The experience is not only valuable to them, but valuable to our staff. Interns come from across the country and a high percentage move on to residency programs," explained Langstraat. The internship is a salaried 12-week program. Pharmacist experiences will include patient counseling, compounding, interacting with health care practitioners, and mini rotations to acquaint pharmacists with specialty practices within the pharmacy.

He said that a misconception about the Mayo Clinic is that many pharmacists think they need a residency program for employment consideration. Although the Mayo Clinic likes to hire individuals with a residency, it is not a requirement.

The Mayo Clinic offers opportunities for advancement. Langstraat said pharmacists interested in moving up the ranks need to endorse the philosophy of the Mayo Clinic, exert and assert themselves—for example, take internal education classes offered and demonstrate leadership through active involvement in state and local pharmacist associations.

Langstraat has advice for graduating pharmacists. "They need to think real hard about what they want from the practice of pharmacy. They need to ask themselves what they would like to be doing in 5 or 6 years. Many will respond that they do not know until they gain more experience. I tell them to consider a career at the Mayo Clinic because of the diversity of pharmacy practice."

Pharmacists interested in pursuing a career in the inpatient pharmacy will not find a shortage of opportunities.

"I enjoy the challenges of the position and strategically positioning pharmacists so the pharmacy department is structured to meet the Mayo Clinic mission," said Kevin Dillon, PharmD, director of pharmacy services in Rochester, on why he loves his job.

For Lance Oyen, PharmD, assistant director of pharmacy services in Rochester, "It is the bright, innovative people you work with throughout the hospital. It is a team atmosphere."

Graduating pharmacists will start in the central pharmacy, which provides a strong foundation to help pharmacists build their pharmacy practice. Dr. Oyen said they consider candidates new to hospital pharmacy and pharmacy graduates with or without residency experience.

"I was a new graduate without residency experience," explained Dr. Oyen. He completed a residency program after 5 years with the Mayo Clinic. In his 16 years with the medical center, he has held 7 positions. "I have not even touched upon all the opportunities."

The Mayo Clinic offers residency programs in pharmacotherapy, ambulatory care, critical care, infectious disease, oncology, and pediatrics. It also offers a Hospital Pharmacy Internship and Clinic Outpatient Pharmacy Clerkship. The 12-week salaried internship program provides in-depth exposure to inpatient pharmaceutical services to help pharmacists explore hospital pharmacy as a career. Pharmacist experiences include unit dosing, intravenous dispensing, and several mini rotations to acquaint pharmacists with specialty practices within a hospital pharmacy. The clerkship program runs 10 to 15 weeks and will help pharmacy students further develop their skills with a variety of patients.

A career in inpatient pharmacy offers opportunities for advancement. "We encourage pharmacists to apply for eligible positions. The qualities we look for are pharmacists' personal goals, ability to work well with others, and interest in management-type tracts," said Dr. Dillon.

Drs. Dillon and Oyen agree that the role of an inpatient hospital pharmacist has changed. "There is growing responsibility to make sure patient care is safe, and pharmacists are becoming more actively engaged in patient care," said Dr. Dillon. Dr. Oyen sees a "pull toward the nondispensing aspect of pharmacy. The pharmacy profession has moved toward comprehensive clinical care in collaboration with physicians and nurses."

In their combined years of experience, Drs. Dillon and Oyen's advice for graduating pharmacy students is plentiful. "Look at a place where you would want care or a family member to receive care," said Dr. Oyen.

"Do not forget why you became a pharmacist," said Dr. Dillon. "Seek out a high-quality organization that is consistent with your philosophy, and seek out a pharmacy department that is progressive and centered."


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