The Ideal Clinical Practice: Myth or Reality


New and experienced pharmacists are always on the lookout for ways to improve their careers. This presentation focuses on some key strategies for identifying new opportunities that allow new and experienced pharmacists to develop and apply their clinical skills.

In a session designed for both new and re-engaging pharmacists, Brian Erstad, PharmD, FASHP, professor and department head, College of Pharmacy, University of Arizona, began by providing his perspective regarding career development based on his experience as an administrator.

Dr Erstad noted that pharmacists will encounter many different practice models, and that it is important for them to find an environment that is a good match both professionally and personally. Finding and keeping a career position involves using and repeating a 3-step process: investigate, consult, and practice.

Starting with the job interview, it is important for pharmacists to understand the site’s practice model and the employer’s expectations, to discuss the work environment with past and present employees, and to practice interviewing. Dr Erstad added that egotism and a strict financial focus should be avoided.

While on the job, pharmacists should seek ongoing justification of their role as part of the current and ever-changing practice model. Pharmacists are not inexpensive labor, and the profession is continually finding, defining, and refining its role as healthcare practice models evolve. Non-pharmacy team members as well as administrators can help provide valuable feedback.

Another key area for attention is preparing for the evaluation process. It is important for pharmacists to fully understand the evaluation methods used and to document and collect data well beforehand regarding their contributions and positive outcomes associated with their interventions. Dr Erstad also suggested formulating a plan for presenting activities and accomplishments.

Asad Patanwala, PharmD, BCPS, associate professor, College of Pharmacy, University of Arizona, continued the session by bringing some meaning and interpretation to the discussions involving “What is ideal” and “What is clinical.” Both of these concepts are important for pharmacists to take into account when considering employment.

The question of “What is clinical” was broached first. Dr Patanwala polled the audience, asking them how to best define a clinical position. The most common response was “rounding with a medical team.” Dr Patanwala offered several examples of practice settings where pharmacists were highly engaged in patient care, including working at a drug information center or at a medication therapy management call center. He noted that consultative activities account for more than half of the intercepted drug errors. The basis for all pharmacy practice models is patient care, he added. Many models exist, and it is important for pharmacists to understand their individual needs with respect to how they want to practice and interact with others in the healthcare system, including patients and other providers.

Next, Dr Patanwala discussed the concept of “What is ideal.” The answer to the question depends upon the individual, he noted. He presented a few thoughts on ways for pharmacists to make the most, and get the most, out of their jobs. The first was to avoid being complacent with a situation. Rather, pharmacists should help to identify areas of weaknesses or unmet needs and should be part of the process for innovation and change. Next, pharmacists should work specifically to improve the attitudes of others on the healthcare team. He reiterated that because the role of pharmacists can often be questioned, it is imperative that practitioners take an active role, and make their abilities, knowledge, and value known. To help define value, pharmacists need to document successes and communicate those with team members and leadership.

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