How to Continue Learning After Graduation
I firmly believe that overall pharmacy knowledge should increase over time.
I firmly believe that overall pharmacy knowledge should increase over time and that your “peak” as a professional, if you are committed to continual learning, should be your last years of practice. There is no reason why you can’t keep up with new drugs, changes in labeling, and other trends after graduation, with pharmacy school faculty members serving as good examples of this.
Being an experienced and knowledgeable professional does not happen by accident, but rather takes time, dedication, and a strategy. Here are some tips to help you in developing your strategy to not only keep up with the profession you worked so hard to enter, but also to excel in your journey of lifelong learning:
1. When you are asked a question you don’t know, look up the answer. Throughout your career, patients and providers will ask questions to which you may not know the answer. Unfortunately, many pharmacists respond with something vague like “you should probably go see your doctor.” If the patient does not truly need a referral, here is a better answer: “Let me do a little research on that to be sure I get you all the information you need.” In doing so, you not only develop an deeper knowledge base, but also build trust and respect with these individuals.
2. Complete more than the minimum number of Continue Education (CE) credits needed to maintain your license. There are many great websites and magazines that can help you keep up with the latest clinical knowledge and review topics you are rusty on. Getting a regular dose of this on top of the minimum CE credits you need is a great way to maintain and build your knowledge.
3. Precept. Taking students under your wing as a preceptor is a great way for both you and your students to learn. You can read and discuss clinical trials with your students, educate the, on any medications you see in the pharmacy, and exposed them to many different experiences during the rotation. Not only will precepting help your students to grow, but in the process you will be able to learn alongside them.
4. Regularly review what you know. Every few years I try to really take my time and spend the year focusing on updates for a wide range of topics. One of the best resources to do so is the American Pharmacists Association NAPLEX Review Book, which provides a great overview of pharmacy at a very affordable price.
5. Keep a notebook on hand. During my first year as a pharmacist, I brought a notebook with me to every shift so that I could write down medications that I would just like to know more about. I would also write down disease states I encountered that were not discussed much in school so I could learn more about them and their including treatment options. Keeping a notebook is also a great idea when you enter a new practice area; I did this, for example, when going from community to long-term care pharmacy.
6. Learn from other professions: Pharmacy organizations and websites are not the only thing you should be learning from. I have had the pleasure of working with a wide array of health care professionals and also studying from resources intended for those professionals; these experiences have helped me become a better and more well-rounded pharmacist.