Pimping in the Pharmacy Profession


In this regard, pimping is when a trainer poses a series of challenging questions to a trainee during rounds or a topic discussion.

An insightful article in JAMA called “The Art of Pimping” describes how “pimpees” (eg, residents) can prepare for interactions with their “pimpers” (eg, preceptors).

In this regard, “pimping” is when a trainer poses a series of challenging questions to a trainee during rounds or a topic discussion. Although the commentary is written for those in the medical profession, as a pharmacy resident, I found it to be surprisingly useful, as well as entertaining.

The author argues that the purpose of pimping is to increase retention of core principles by being provocative, so both the method and material should be memorable. It can be challenging for pimpers to strike a balance in which the pimpee is neither overwhelmed nor bored.

I think the author is right when he notes that pimping should not be taken too seriously and that we often learn more from the things we do wrong than the things we do right.

Here are several tactics that pimpers and pimpees in the pharmacy profession may encounter or employ:

The muffin defense.

When asked a question by a preceptor, a trainee stuffs his or her mouth full of food (eg, a muffin), thus disabling the ability to answer. The hope here is that the preceptor will then redirect the question to an alternate trainee.

If the preceptor does not move onto the next trainee, then at least this strategy will buy a resident some time.

Pitching back.

This method is neither used to deflect a direct question, nor only beneficial to one trainee. Rather, it produces a shift in the discussion, thereby reducing the questioning for all trainees.

This tactic works best when the trainee has at least a moderate level of familiarity with the trainer’s interests and specialty. When employing this technique, the trainee ends his or her answer with an inquiry for the trainer.

The question or comment “pitched back” to the trainer should (1) be focused on specific interest of the trainer, (2) allow for an open-ended response, and (3) set the stage for a conversation that consists mostly of the trainer providing explanations to the trainees.

This tactic should be used with caution, as a resident must not be seen as challenging the preceptor, but rather opening the floor to a conversation on a noteworthy topic.

The politician.

Here, the trainee asked a question does not speak directly to the trainer, but rather addresses the audience or group as a whole, answering a similar yet more preferable question. If tactfully employed, the trainer will not realize that the original question was not answered.

It may be useful to combine this tactic with pitching back.

The help-desk redirect.

When it comes to new technology, trainees are often significantly more knowledgeable than their trainers. If this is the case, a trainee who senses that a pimping session is about to ensue can ask the preceptor which mobile device and/or apps to use, following it up with an offer to assist in implementing updates or setting up potentially useful apps.

If used carefully, this tactic may be employed repeatedly.

The current events illusionist.

When a conversation is heading towards the point where the trainer begins assigning drug information questions, the trainee brings up a current event that relates to the topic of conversation.

Twitter and Reddit are excellent tools for gathering content that may prove useful for this purpose. If used correctly, the point of being tasked with assignments is not reached and the trainer will be left with the impression (or more likely the illusion) that the trainee regularly keeps up on worldly affairs.


Detsky AS. The art of pimping. JAMA. 2009; 301(13): 1379-1381.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US government.

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