POSTGRADUATE TRAINING—OR NOT?
I AM AN AVID SUPPORTER OFresidencies, and I strongly encourageUNC students to consider a residencyas a prelude to establishing theirown practice. I sometimes describe aresidency as an organized way to consolidateyears of pharmacy practiceexperience into 1 year (or 2 if one followsa general practice residency witha specialty residency). I am sure thatmany residents feel as if they virtuallylive at their hospital during theirprogram and that they will vouch formy description.
Pharmacy practice and performanceexpectations by patients, physicians,and other providers are evolvingrapidly in many organizations,including ambulatory care environments.Admittedly, this evolution isin various stages and is changing at adifferent pace among providerorganizations. Residency training isone solution to prepare young practitionersto assume clinical or practicemanagement responsibilities with aminimum of on-the-job training. Inother words, the experience may help"jump-start" an individual's careerand allow him or her to begin at ahigher practice level.
I prefer to hire new practitionerswith residency experience. Yet, with thelimited number of residents seekingjobs, it is challenging to find the level ofexpertise in a practitioner that I want.On the other hand, residency experienceis not necessarily essential for allpharmacists to practice in some acutecare and ambulatory care environments.In fact, some colleagues suggestthat schools of pharmacy are insensitiveto what the market requires interms of pharmacist skills and that we"overtrain" new graduates.
Given the above and the diversityof practice expectations across thecountry, we have a true conundrum.It seems to me thatschools of pharmacyand the practicingpharmacist communityboth have incentivesto collaborate onpreparing pharmacists(and perhapseven retooling graduates)for contemporarypharmacy practice.Instead ofdivisive debates on whether newgraduates are overtrained or whetherpharmacy practice lags behind insome environments, should we notwork together to align ourselves fromboth educational and practice perspectives,and then agree on a strategyfor the future?
Collaboration in preparing professionalstudents for the workforcedoubtless will improve. In the meantime,however, postgraduate trainingprograms remain a worthwhileinvestment for young pharmacists tomake, and employers will competeaggressively for their skills.
Mr. McAllister is director of pharmacy atUniversity of North Carolina (UNC)Hospitals and Clinics and associate deanfor clinical affairs at UNC School ofPharmacy, Chapel Hill.