5 Reasons to Do a Pharmacy Residency

There are many significant educational benefits of residency training that are supported by a number of pharmacy organizations, but there are a few you may not find in official literature.

You’re in your clinical rotation year and you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The next big choice in your life is approaching fast.

If you're not one of the lucky few who know exactly what they are going to do after graduation, you may be trying to decide whether pursuing postgraduate residency training is right for you.

Full disclosure: I did not do a pharmacy residency. Clearly, I am not against postgraduate training in pharmacy, but as I finished up pharmacy school, I did not see a path in residency that matched my goals and priorities. I do not regret that decision, either. I have been lucky enough to find myself in a clinical specialty that is exciting, fulfilling, and matches me perfectly.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of being a preceptor to many pharmacy students and residents with whom I have shared my story. Although they may think I am trying to explain the merits of not doing a pharmacy residency, I instead use my example as a cautionary tale.

I don’t pretend that I got where I am today strictly because of my own motivation. I realize that it was at least partially due to a series of coincidences and opportunities.

To be crystal clear, if you know that hospital pharmacy is where you want to be, then a residency is probably the best way to get there.

There are many significant educational benefits of residency training that are supported by a number of pharmacy organizations, but I want to present a few you may not find in official literature. Here are my 5 reasons to do a pharmacy residency:

1. Because 2020 is right around the corner.

Both the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) advocate that all pharmacists in direct patient care roles should have residency training (or equivalent experience) as a prerequisite by 2020.1 This has been a big driver behind the demand for residency training skyrocketing in recent years, as more and more hospitals prefer to hire residency trained pharmacists for patient care roles.

The fact is that residency training does, at a minimum, give you an advantage over other job candidates with the same level of experience. In an already crowded job market where residency training is becoming the new norm, any advantage helps.

2. Because you can’t afford another degree.

Many pharmacy students are graduating with more $100,000 in debt, and the idea of doubling that figure by getting a secondary postgraduate degree may be too much to bear.

For those who may feel as though they have chosen the wrong profession upon pharmacy school graduation, I encourage you to seek out nontraditional pharmacy career routes.

One- and 2-year residencies/fellowships in the pharmaceutical industry, hospital administration, or regulatory agencies are just a few of the options that provide unique professional paths for pharmacy graduates in areas that may otherwise be only accessible with a second professional degree. Some may even be combined with an MBA or MPH that you earn as a part of the residency curriculum.

3. Because you don’t want to commit to a fellowship.

The nice thing about pharmacy residency is that, for most positions, the commitment is only 1 year.

You may realize halfway through your advanced practice rotations that you still haven't found a type of pharmacy practice that fits you. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another year of diverse hands-on experience to help you solidify your career goals?

If you find a practice area that you love in your PGY-1 year, then you can pursue PGY-2 in that area. If further training after your PGY-1 year doesn’t fit your goals, then as a residency graduate, you are more prepared for whatever type of practice you pursue.

4. Because debt doesn't have to rule your life.

First, congratulate yourself. You’ve chosen a career where the average salary is more than $100,000 a year, and you're ready to start collecting on that college investment.

Many see their mass of student loan debt as something that needs to be paid off as soon as possible, and they also see getting a job right out of school as the best way to do that. Keep in mind that, just like a mortgage, student loan repayment is a long game with many factors involved aside from dollars and cents.

Consider your long-term job satisfaction in your decision. Many pharmacy school graduates say they will work for a few years and then go back and do a residency, but few can actually pull this off, as it may be difficult to take a pay cut after building your life around a certain salary.

It’s important to remember that postgraduate training will generally qualify you for loan payment deferment, so you don’t have to worry about your residency stipend going directly to loan payments. It’s common knowledge that paying off debt faster is generally the best way to decrease your overall repayment amount, but consider everything that is important to you and your goals, and don’t let the big number scare you.

5. Because it’s the right personal decision for you.

I’m not going to pretend that any 2 people’s life circumstances or experiences are the same. It’s impossible to simplify and generalize such a personal question like what is the right career choice for you. There really is no wrong answer.

The career of a pharmacist is a good one. No matter where your career takes you, you are in an exciting and fulfilling field that provides a real benefit to patients’ lives, and that should never be underestimated.

Rarely is anyone 100% about what they want to do after graduation. Luckily, you have been trained on how to make hard decisions. Weigh the risks and benefits, put the intervention into context, and if the benefits of residency outweigh the risks, go for it!

Reference

Johnson TJ. Pharmacist work force in 2020: implications of requiring residency training for practice. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2008;65(2):166-70.