March 15 marks Match Day, in which thousands of student pharmacists from across the United States are 'matched' to residency positions in hospitals and community pharmacies. Of the approximate 5,134 residency positions available, 4,697 are now filled, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ (ASHP). The remainder of the open positions are expected to be filled in during Phase II of the Match.

“The 2019 Match results for Phase I demonstrate remarkable expansion in residency programs and available positions,” said Janet A. Silvester, Pharm.D., MBA, FASHP, Vice President, ASHP Accreditation Services Office, in a prepared statement. “PGY2 growth continues to outpace PGY1 growth, supporting the market demand for pharmacists with advanced training to fill medication expert roles on the patient care team.”

According to Jill Fitzgerald, PharmD, director of experiential learning and continuing professional development at University of Connecticut, Match Day is as exciting as it is stress-inducing for pharmacy students. “Student preparation for residency programs begins very early in their academic career. That has to do with requirements for residency training. [Residency programs] are looking for leadership and skills, research experiences, and teaching experience as well,” she said, in an interview with Pharmacy Times.

The process in order to attain the necessary experience for such programs requires preparation and foresight. Students must research accredited programs, attend regional and national residency showcases, such as ASHP’s clinical meeting in December, to meet program directors and residents; participate in rotations based on their interest—all before applying.

After proper research, students focus the application process, which includes a letter of intent, 3-4 recommendations and a CV.

For students like Jessica Hong, a PharmD candidate on her 6th year at the University of Connecticut, the process was challenging, yet worth the preparation in order to be matched with Western New England University (WNE), a program affiliate with Walgreens.

“It was definitely a challenging process with interviews, and presentations. There was a lot involved, especially with being familiar with my CV and [relating] my personal and professional life experiences to my aspirations,” said Hong, in an interview.

The PGY1 residency through WNE will allow Hong to gain experience in community pharmacy setting, direct patient care, and ambulatory care, she added.

Over the last 5 years, post-graduate year-1 (PGY1) residency positions have grown by 34% and post-graduate year-2 (PGY2) positions by 64%, according to a news release by ASHP. Residencies in ambulatory care, much like Hong’s, have seen a 112% increase in growth, with infectious disease residencies following by 68% and oncology residencies by 40%. Expansive growth occurred in emergency medicine residencies, which grew by 230%, and in pain management and palliative care residencies, which increased by 127%.

Students like Nicholas Pugliese, a 6th year PharmD Candidate at University of Connecticut, the growth in such residency programs comes at a good time. While in pharmacy school, he used his interest for pain management and infectious disease to seek opportunities to learn. In his 3rd year, Pugliese, an ASHP affiliate president, participated in a longitudinal rotation program through Hartford Hospital, which “matched” with him today. 

“[The rotation program] provided opportunities for research and teaching. I took advantage of that to branch out and learn more, and as I went through, I learned that I liked cardiology and critical care more than my previous idea of pain management and infectious disease. So, I used those experiences to learn what I like and inform my decision,” Pugliese said.

In an interview, Pugliese said that he intends to seek a PYG2 in order to specialize in either cardiology or critical care.

For Doug Buckheit, a current 4th year student from the University of Connecticut, the residency match process may feel long and stressful at times, yet once match day finally arrives, one suddenly realizes how well the system works. "The match process is a great way for students to find residency programs they love, and for programs to find the candidates that fit them best. No matter which phase of the match a student ends up in, there are plenty of strong programs that are looking for great candidates.

In 2016, ASHP collaborated with National Matching Services (NMS) and the Pharmacy Online Residency Centralized Application Service (PHORCAS) to create a 2-phase Match process to help meet the needs of not only the rapidly growing number of pharmacists and student pharmacists who are seeking residencies, but also residency programs that are seeking applicants.

“Residency for pharmacy students is not always a requirement, but for those who want to work in a hospital practice, it’s a differentiator,” said Fitzgerald. “Most PGY1 students have a general residency where they rotate through clinical settings and departments [in order] to get a broad range of hospital and pharmacy experience. This enables them to have more opportunities when they finish their residency, since many hospitals see residency as 1-3 years of experience.”

Now in its 4th year, ASHP’s Phase II of the Match gives student pharmacists who did not match in Phase I another opportunity to apply for a number of postgraduate training programs. The deadline to register to participate in Phase II of the Match is April 2, 2019.

This article was edited on March, 26th 2019.

Reference

ASHP 2019 Residency Match Phase I Shows Continued Increase in Positions [news release]. Bethesda, MD; March 15, 2019: ASHP website. https://www.ashp.org/news/2019/03/15/ashp-2019-residency-match-phase-i-shows-continued-increase-in-positions. Accessed March 15, 2019.