Should You Pursue a PGY-1 Residency?

DECEMBER 14, 2016
Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS
After attending the ASHP 2016 Midyear Conference this year the message is clear to me, if you want to work in a hospital clinical setting, you must pursue a residency. It is not something you can take a risk on because it will greatly affect your career goals.

I did not do a residency in 1999 but 30% to 40% of my class signed up for a residency. At the time, my career goals were not set in stone. I was unsure about carrying student loan debt that approached the salary I would make in a year. I was unsure about what area in pharmacy I wanted to spend working the rest of my life. I wanted a family quickly. That 30%  to 40% went on to land the jobs they wanted and are the leaders in hospital clinical pharmacy today.

Today, I know what areas in pharmacy motivate me. I enjoy the safety aspect of medicine and attempting to mitigate external processes that can hinder accuracy in pharmacy especially in transitional care. I enjoy antimicrobial stewardship, critical care, and teaching. I enjoy collaborating with other healthcare professionals in discussing and rounding on patients and making recommendations for improvement. I did not know this in 1999. I took the long way around to hospital pharmacy as a career, and lucky for me, the job market was not so tight to exclude me.

The biggest message I would pass to the pharmacy class of 2017 is try your best to discuss or job-shadow with other pharmacists and narrow down what area of pharmacy you want to pursue. It does not have to be narrow and specific, but making the financial sacrifice for a PGY-1 if you find hospital pharmacy in your career goal is a must. There are exceptions to the rule as I have seen brand-new graduates land a hospital job and some even clinical right away, but it is not the norm in general.

Deciding to do a residency is not the end of the journey. As 3,309 students applied for a PGY-1 residency last year,  only 68% positions were filled according to ASHP; 1,556 students did not match and had to adjust their career goals.

What does this mean? It means you have to work hard to be different than the pharmacist next to you. What can you offer the program that they cannot? Did you work hard during pharmacy school on your grades as some programs use grades to narrow down their selection field? Have you worked on your interviewing skills? Are you willing to relocate? Are you an effective communicator? Are you confident?

Deciding to do a residency is a big commitment both before and after landing one. As I enjoyed ASHP Midyear 2016 this year in Las Vegas, I reflected on my career and found myself hoping the thousands of pharmacy students and pharmacists there were in the careers they enjoy. I am blessed to say that I am, but would not have had the same fortune had I not pursued a residency today.