PGY-1 Resident Finds Niche in Geriatrics Pharmacy

An Interview with Dr. Hien Nguygen, a PGY-1 Resident at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health who has a love for geriatric pharmacy

Dr. Hien Nguyen is a current resident at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. In 2017, she graduated with her Doctorate of Pharmacy from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy within the University of the Sciences in Pennsylvania .

During her time at school, she participated in the Operation Heart Committee of the American Pharmacists Association, the Pennsylvania Pharmacist Association, and the University Spirit Committee within the student government.

Upon the completion of her residency, Dr. Nguyen will be joining Mountain Area Health Education Center/University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy as a PGY-2 Geriatrics Pharmacy Resident. She desires to obtain a board certification in geriatrics (BCGP) and ambulatory care (BCACP), obtain a geriatrics clinical pharmacy specialist position in an ambulatory care setting, and become a preceptor to precept the future generation of student pharmacists.

Question: Why did you choose to pursue a pharmacy residency?

Answer: Surprisingly, I did not know I wanted to pursue a residency until I started my APPE rotations. From my APPE experiences, I had the opportunity to work under such wonderful and inspiring pharmacy residency preceptors and residents that showed me residency allows for newly graduated pharmacists to continue to build upon the clinical knowledge obtained during pharmacy school into daily practices to provide great patient care. Additionally, I found that residency training would allow for a smoother transition from student to pharmacist and it provides exceptional guidance through direct mentorship with the residency preceptors and other pharmacists as well.

Q: What is the purpose or goal of a residency?

A: The goal of a residency is to provide extensive training to pharmacists in various areas of clinical pharmacy to prepare the resident to achieve their careers goals, and desired further advancements.

Q: What is the structure of your residency program (may include day-to-day activities as well)?

A : My residency program at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health is a traditional PGY-1 pharmacy residency. We work on roughly a month-to-month rotation schedule, in which core rotations I have completed include trauma/critical care, internal medicine, infectious diseases, transitions of care, ambulatory care, cardiology, medication safety, and management/leadership. My program is very flexible, and tailored to fit my needs. For instance, my last rotation will be created particularly for me as it is a geriatric block in both the in-patient and ambulatory setting!

Aside from rotations, my day-to-day life as a PGY-1 includes working on projects for new initiatives, such as creating training on pharmacy consults on new insulin starts, training pharmacists regarding opioid shortage, and electronic health record functions on medication reconciliation. In addition, I take calls for longitudinal experiences such as drug information and rapid administration of antibiotics. I also have the opportunity to work on my research project on the validation of a pharmacy discharge scoring tool (one of the first pharmacy-centric discharge tools out there). Finally, we have a staffing component and IV room experiences as residents.

As I move onto my PGY-2 geriatrics program, the program structure is designed as longitudinal day-to-day life of a geriatric pharmacist. I will have experiences in long term care, academia (teaching and precepting), Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), geriatrics psychiatry, hospice/palliative care, pharmacotherapy, with some electives and a short block at the Cherokee Indian Hospital. I am very excited to start these experiences!

Q: What are the advantages of completing a residency? What job opportunities are available for residents after completion of a residency?

A: Residency is an intense process that accelerates about three years of pharmacy experiences into one. I find that completing a residency allows you to be a more marketable and respected as a pharmacist. It shows your drive to build upon your clinical knowledge after pharmacy school and your dedication to the pharmacy profession. There are numerous jobs available for those that finishing residencies. It depends on where you want to go and what you want to do, but many residents do have clinical positions within institutions.

Q: What do you believe are the top three skills that a residency (especially a geriatric resident) must have in order to be successful in their field?

A: Open-mindedness, positivity, and compassion. I think in order to be a successful resident you have to be open-minded and receptive to constructive criticisms. A large sum of residency is going out of your comfort zone and have to have the mindset in realizing you won’t be 100% fantastic at what you do, but you are trying your best at it. This comes with positivity as well. There will be parts of your residency that you will like (and be better at) compared to others, but if you keep your head up and remain positive and make the best of your rotation, it will be over before you know it and you will realize what a tremendous amount you learned. Lastly, being compassionate helps a lot! I am a big advocate for direct patient care, and I think it is always so much more meaningful to do something that helps care for our patients, and to interact with them directly. It is a thousand times even more rewarding when they directly reciprocate how grateful they are (hence why I am so excited to work with more geriatric patients next year)!

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a residency/geriatric residency?

A: If you are thinking about pursuing a residency, go for it! Going through the initial processes of pursuing a residency is a great experience overall. It allows for great opportunities to network, and learn more about yourself. Whether you end up applying for a residency or not, you can take something away from opening yourself up to see what is out there in the pharmacy world.

Similarly, in regards to pursing a geriatrics residency or going for any PGY-2 in general, if you are thinking of or considering it, do it! Some of the best advice I have received, although simple, is to 'go all in.' I would not be writing this today if I did not. I am extremely passionate about the geriatrics population. The geriatrics population is continuingly growing, and a vast majority of the population is underserved. Geriatrics pharmacy allows you to manage various disease states and conditions, and to expand the skillset that you will obtain in a PGY1 with a niche population.