Finding a Nontraditional Pharmacy Calling in Health Care Technology

Going through rotations, students should focus on creating meaningful relationships, and always putting their best foot forward.

Acquiring an advanced degree, whether in medicine, law, or pharmacy is a tremendous undertaking, both intellectually and financially. These fields of study were originally designed with the express purpose of transforming students into physicians, lawyers, and pharmacists who practice in traditional professional settings, such as hospitals, courtrooms, and pharmacies.

It isn’t surprising that so many students enter these academic pursuits under the belief that their professional endgame is predetermined as traditional. At least that is what I thought.

Now a graduate, my nontraditional profession is outside of the pharmacy doors, and more importantly, it can offer an equally rewarding opportunity to improve patient health.

Going through pharmacy school, I knew I wanted to practice in a community setting. My husband has been a retail pharmacist for a decade and witnessing his passion for the profession and how much his patients adore him inspired me. I was eager to follow in his footsteps. Additionally, with unparalleled accessibility and independent practitioner status, I firmly believed community pharmacists are the best representation of the profession and are uniquely positioned to make the strongest impact on population health. Therefore, I’ve always believed that it is so important to encourage stellar students to excel at community pharmacy practice.

I cannot state that I explicitly sought out my nontraditional community pharmacy profession. It was a matter of chance.

Reshaping the Future of Pharmacy Practice

After having my first baby during P3 year, it was time to choose my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotations. Community practice was my desired path post-graduation, and proximity to my daughter was the driving force to my APPE ranking decisions.

Everything changed rapidly and unexpectedly, when on a hot summer morning, I stepped foot into my 4th APPE site. As I walked through the door of PrescribeWellness™, a sense of familiarity washed over me, and I instantly felt like I have arrived.

A Tabula Rasa Health Care® solution, PrescribeWellness is a place where community pharmacy marries technology. PrescribeWellness was founded to help ensure community pharmacies not only sustain but thrive in the current climate of rising DIR fees and shrinking margins. With its colorful office and youthful, vibrant workforce, it has a feel of a tech start-up, yet PrescribeWellness is also very much community pharmacy adjacent. With innovative solutions designed to help practices transition from embracing a pill-centric business model to a patient-centric health care destination, PrescribeWellness helps spread the delivery of value-based care, or as they call it, going #BeyondTheFill.

As my rotation progressed, I knew I was somewhere special. After only a few weeks, I developed a sense of belonging. Everything just clicked, and every day I arrived with a purpose, eager to dive in and complete my assignments. And since I was playing a critical part in ensuring the success of community pharmacy—in turn improving patient health—I felt fulfilled and inspired.

Traditionally nontraditional

Employing approximately 150 team members—the vast minority who not pharmacists—makes PrescribeWellness a nontraditional landing spot for a pharmacy school graduate. Given the limited number of pharmacists at the company’s disposal, my unique perspective is even more valued than it might be in a more traditional pharmacy setting. I am able to leverage everything I learned in pharmacy school day-in and day-out with the key difference being that I play a critical role in how community pharmacists deliver patient care from behind-the-scenes, rather than from behind-the-counter.

From day 1, many departments throughout the company solicited my insight and first-hand pharmacist knowledge. On a typical day, I might be helping bring new offerings to our partners, some of the key players in the community pharmacy realm. On another day, I might be participating in financial analysis with the sales and accounting teams, a task both challenging and rewarding for a clinician. Whether it is the development team, data scientists, cognitive behavioral scientists, clinical operations, or marketing, I am routinely recruited to participate in and consult on a wide variety of projects with a diverse group of professionals.

Since my passion is impacting patient health, representing the voice of community pharmacists whenever PrescribeWellness develops or enhances a new pharmacy solution is my favorite duty. By advocating for products that are functional, easy to utilize, and effectively enhance patient care, I am able to play an integral part in ensuring that our technology solutions are a step ahead of the industry standard, and are designed to reshape the future of pharmacy practice. This allows me to leave the office each day fulfilled and confident that I am making a difference.

Aside from daily collaborations, I manage my own internal program that delivers enhanced service opportunities to community pharmacy clients, and must continuously deliver quality outcomes. Additionally, my job consists of keeping up-to-date on industry trends and new opportunities to deliver to PrescribeWellness’ nation-wide community pharmacy network with the ultimate goal of improving patient care on a large scale and growing pharmacy revenue. I am proud to say that I’ve played an active and meaningful role in achieving both of those goals.

The nontraditional journey continues

As my APPE rotation came to an end, my future at PrescribeWellness was just beginning. After working as an intern for the remainder of pharmacy school, I joined the company as a PGY-1 Executive Resident upon graduation. And I haven’t looked back.

While most pharmacists work behind the counter, I love working next to it, shaping and delivering health care technology to enhance community pharmacy practice. As a pharmacy student, I always wanted to make a difference in a community pharmacy, and as a result of heading down a road less traveled, I believe I’m now doing that on a different level and scope than had I pursued a traditional professional avenue. That said, there is no right or wrong path.

Pharmacy students often ask me what it takes to be successful in the fast-paced environment of health care technology, and I always tell them that you must be willing to embrace change, drive your own success, be accountable for the quality of your work, and most importantly, be eager to make a difference. Going through rotations, students should focus on creating meaningful relationships, and always putting their best foot forward. Don’t be overly fixated on your GPA: think of yourself as a full package that’s more than just a number, and exhibit what makes you unique.

The moral of my story is incredible nontraditional pharmacy professions are out there. One just needs to look for them ... and maybe have a little bit of luck.

Darya Inocencio, PharmD, is an executive resident with PrescribeWellness.