Experience or Residency? What Is Really Important?


Over time, pharmacy is evolving into something different.

Remember when a Doctor of Pharmacy was the new and best requirement as a pharmacist overtaking the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy? Pharmacists graduating with a bachelor’s degree were reevaluating continuing their education since the Doctor of Pharmacy was more experience and supposedly a more clinical experience (along with more tuition/debt). Would-be pharmacists could enroll in a pharmacy school after fulfilling prerequisite requirements that could be met in two years and finish with some prestige: a professional degree and the use of doctor before their names.

The frustrations of this career include the inability to bill for services that are not covered. Over time pharmacy is evolving into something different: pharmacists are monitoring labs and trends and making recommendations and are also utilized to save money for hospitals by converting medications from IV to oral, which reduces infections and lowers costs. We are still in flux as far as becoming a provider that can bill for actual services provided to the health care team. Pharmacists are becoming more creative in billing and building businesses to help move toward services rather than just products (medications).

Today, the new and best is a residency after graduation. Having been involved with a residency program, I have learned rather quickly that not all residency programs are alike. There are competitive residency programs that offer a lot of expertise and variety and others that are starting out basically attempting to meet ASHP’s strict requirements. Meeting the requirements of ASHP listed go above and beyond what other organizations like JCAHO require in a hospital setting. Some workplaces recognize experience more than others, but pharmacist positions seem to be preferring residencies over those not residency trained.

I am not residency trained. I graduated in 1999 from a top 10 pharmacy school and could not see the benefit at the time weighed with the new responsibilities of marriage and student loans and decided to go straight to work. Back then, I was working with pharmacists who had a BS in pharmacy and some Doctor of Pharmacy degreed pharmacists and found that experience was key. Many times pharmacists, just like in any other career, become uninterested in staying up-to-date with the latest in the field. They rely heavily on computer programs and software to alert them of drug-drug interactions and other issues we are supposed to know well. I found the best pharmacists, whether BS Pharm or PharmD, were the ones who stayed up-to-date, didn’t rush through their work just trying to get done, and were actively thinking while working. It didn’t matter as much on what degree was obtained as a Pharmacy license in the state was a license regardless of education of BS or doctorate.

However, the profession has changed again. The PGY-1 pharmacist is more enticing than the PharmD today, just as the PharmD was to the BS Pharm.

Keep in mind that the ASHP has the 2015 initiative to have 90% of all new practitioners entering hospital pharmacy to have completed a residency program by 2015.

However, a pharmacist must take an active role in learning, even if in a new residency program that does not have a lot to offer. Continuing to have that mindset throughout a pharmacists’ career is key to success and making a difference in the lives of patients.

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