6 Tips to Stand Out as a Pharmacy Intern

A new pack of pharmacy interns has flooded the field to perfect their knowledge prior to graduation in May.

A new pack of pharmacy interns has flooded the field to perfect their knowledge prior to graduation in May.

Most pharmacy schools have P4 pharmacists complete at least 6 rotations in the field, including but not limited to retail, hospital, ambulatory care, and internal medicine. Because preceptors see so many interns go through their practice, only the best are remembered.

As I meet new interns, I get to know their personalities, goals, and concerns. In doing so, I always provide the opportunity for them to ask me any and all questions. One of the most common questions they ask is, “What can I do better to be the best intern?” or “How can I make sure I’m noticed right off the bat?”

Most interns will need letters of recommendations to apply to jobs, residencies, or fellowships, and most of those letters will come from preceptors in their field. Therefore, it’s vital for all interns make a good impression.

Here are my tips to stand out on rotations and eventually secure that recommendation letter:

1. Keep a Positive Outlook

Understandably, most students are bound to get rotations they really prefer not to have. Regardless of whether your new rotation is in a field you have little interest in or you’re mentally drained from you previous rotation, you still have to show up every day and give 100%.

All internships will increase your knowledge for your future career, or at least boards. There are many instances where students thought they wouldn’t like a rotation and ended up loving it. That could happen to you, too, but not if you’re being negative.

2. Research Your Preceptor

Whether they’re professors or random individuals you got paired up with, preceptors probably have LinkedIn profiles, or you can do a simple Google search to start off. Look over their interests because they’ll most likely want to teach you those topics.

If your preceptor is faculty at your college and has taught lectures pertaining to a certain specialty or field, review them! This may sound like common sense, but it surprisingly doesn’t cross everyone’s minds.

One preceptor I had worked in the intensive care unit (ICU) and stewardship program for infectious disease, and those were the areas we focused on for that particular internship. Fellow classmates didn’t review any ICU lectures she gave or antibiotic drug classes, and it wasn’t a recipe for success, to say the least.

Simply put: if your preceptor loves infectious disease, you should now love infectious disease. If you really don’t, too bad! You need to know it for your boards anyway and you have the opportunity to know it like the back of your hand by the end of rotation so you won’t have to study it later.

3. Review All Relevant Materials

If you’re doing a retail rotation, review OTC recommendations. If you’re in ambulatory care, know the most recent guidelines for the most common disease states, like diabetes and high blood, as you’ll see these disease states over and over again.

If you want to impress your preceptor, make good recommendations from the beginning and you’ll have the opportunity to build a positive relationship with your preceptor. Likewise, if you read all the materials and there are a few disease states you don’t understand, you have the opportunity to focus your efforts on those, rather than spending time on topics you’re already comfortable with. Your preceptor will appreciate all the efforts you’ve put in and be happier to work with you because you have background knowledge.

4. Get to Know Your Preceptor Personally

Preceptors are human beings with feelings, stresses, and excitement in their lives inside and outside of work. Don’t be afraid to get to know your preceptor, as almost any preceptor will be happy to talk to you and get to know you in return. It’s easier to work with someone you enjoy holding a conversation with, compared with someone who you feel may be from another planet.

5. Always Look for Opportunity from Others

While you’re on rotation, other pharmacists may give you projects, or they may teach you new tasks or systems, or they’ll simply quiz your knowledge. Take advantage of these opportunities. Preceptors want to see you branch out and work with their coworkers and technicians because a) it shows you’re versatile and can work with many different personalities, b) you’ll build more professional connections and potential recommendation letters, and c) you might learn more from individuals aside from your preceptor.

Not all preceptors have the time or personality to sit down with you one-on-one or teach you new things, but their coworkers might.

6. Think Before You Vent

A few years ago on rotation, my fellow classmates spoke very negatively about my preceptor, not realizing they were leaving her a voicemail the entire time. Although this is a very rare situation, it could happen nonetheless.

Preceptors don’t want to hear their students complaining about them through the grapevine, so if you need to vent one day, think before you speak and make sure you’re telling someone who won’t spread rumors.

Conclusion

You should always have your work done, come in with a smile, treat your preceptor like a human being, and say yes. Do you want to work on an additional project to teach the nurses about antidiabetic medications and their monitoring? Yes. Do you want to shadow a code being called or performed? Yes. Do you want to learn the computer system we use here? Yes. Do you want to spend a day with a nutritionist to learn about bariatric surgery? Yes.

Don’t be afraid to have a great time and actually enjoy rotations. Those are the students who make an everlasting impact.