Taking advantage of all the value that nonpharmacy organizations have to offer.
Membership in professional organizations is a valuable asset regardless of what stage of your career you are in or what area of pharmacy you practice in. While there are many professional pharmacy organizations represented both nationally and internationally, pharmacists are not restricted to membership in only pharmacy organizations. This article will discuss the benefits of joining a non-pharmacy organization and attending their conferences.
Find Your Niche
The field of medicine is advancing rapidly and the profession of pharmacy continues to evolve with expanding roles of the pharmacist in contemporary health care. Many pharmacists are focusing their efforts in a particular medical practice area by becoming specialists. This is clearly evident by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, which continues to add available certifications for pharmacists to achieve in specialty areas of practice.
Joining a non-pharmacy organization that has a focus and mission that is consistent with your specialty area can be extremely valuable to your advancement as a health care professional. By doing so, you will immerse yourself among nationwide or worldwide experts in your area of practice. When you attend the organization’s conferences, you will be able to partake in sessions of focused seminars on hot topics specific to your area of interest. In contrast to a general pharmacy organization, the conference will be able to place emphasis on their specialty providing a greater number of sessions that are likely to interest you; essentially increasing the “bang for your buck” in attending that conference.
Most professional organizations also allow anyone (members and non-members alike) to attend their conference. While attendance as a non-member typically comes with a premium price tag, this can allow you to “scope out” the conference and see if that specific organization is one that you would like to be a part of if you aren’t quite sure and do not yet want to commit to the membership fee.
Pharmacists in Training
Whether you are a student, resident, fellow, or in another training program, many organizations offer reduced membership (in some cases free membership) and conference registration fees for trainees. This is the perfect time for you to capitalize on these free or low-cost options to explore around and find which organization will help advance your training and help you grow as a professional.
Most conferences will have specialty tracks that are geared toward members in training or early career professionals. These sessions will help tailor the conference experience to your specific needs as a trainee and provide important information such as navigating conferences, how to get involved with the organization, and development of skills such as writing, teaching, and research.
Networking, by far in my opinion, is the most valuable aspect of attending a nonpharmacy organization conference like the American Diabetes Association Meeting, happening in San Diego this week. We have all heard the saying, and are guilty of saying it ourselves, that “pharmacy is a small world." By this, we of course are referring to the fact that there is a high likelihood that you will have a colleague in common when you meet someone new in the profession of pharmacy. If this is true, then we should make every attempt we can to network with healthcare practitioners outside of our own profession to further broaden our relationships. This has many benefits, one of which builds upon the way other health care practitioners view the profession of pharmacy, and will make you more integrated as an interdisciplinary team member. Additionally, these relationships can be extremely valuable when expanding your research efforts and establishing collaborators at other sites.
Share Your Research
Regardless of which conferences you attend, you should make every effort to share some of the research you are working on at every one. Pharmacy and non-pharmacy conferences alike are excellent opportunities to get a feel for what is hot and on the rise in the field of research in your specialty area. An added benefit of attending a non-pharmacy organizations conference is the scope of research is greatly expanded. You will encounter researchers of all disciplines, both with a clinical focus, but also basic science. These topics can be particularly useful as they reveal what you may expect to see in the clinic in the near future.
Another valuable characteristic of presenting your research would be the feedback you receive regarding your study. As different healthcare practitioners are trained differently and come from sites that practice differently, you can receive some great insight into any modifications that you may be able to make to further enhance your study. As a trainee, this is very valuable as you are in the early stages of your career still developing your research skills. Similarly as mentioned before, the poster floor is an excellent opportunity for networking and generating new relationships for future collaborative research.
If you are a first-timer and hesitant to present your research, I have previously offered some tips for poster presenters.
Being actively involved in professional organizations and the advancement of healthcare should not come to an end with the completion of pharmacy school. Involvement in professional organizations is an excellent opportunity that you may use for continual life-long education. An organizations conference is the perfect occasion for beginning your committee involvement. Depending on the organization, many committees utilize the conference for annual business meetings. These meetings may include transitions of leadership and a discussion of the plans of the committee for the upcoming year. Additionally, depending on the structure of the committee, charges will be assigned for the activities to take place in the coming year under the new leadership. This is the opportune time for you to get integrated with a committee and involved by taking charge of an activity. If you haven’t yet found a committee you would like to be involved in, or are a member in training, you can “shop” around the various committee business meetings—if they are open to general attendees—to get a sense of what the committee does and if it is the right one for you to be involved with.
Professional organizations can serve you many benefits regardless if you are still in training, or well established in your career. Taking advantage of all the value that nonpharmacy organizations have to offer by attending their conference can greatly boost your growth as a health care professional.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and should not be attributed to Mayo Clinic.