Tips to Finding Balance: Being a Well-Rounded Student Pharmacist

April 13, 2021
Madison Como, PharmD, BCPS

,
Danielle Harvey, PharmD Candidate

From countless hours of studying to participating in pharmacy organizations to volunteering in the community, it’s no surprise that student pharmacists often struggle to find balance as a well-rounded student.

It’s not an accident that pharmacy is considered one of the most trusted professions.1 Pharmacists are equipped with the knowledge to help treat and counsel patients, they are active and accessible within the community, and are natural leaders within the health care field.

For these reasons, it’s important that student pharmacists enter the workforce well-rounded and equipped to handle all these roles. Being a well-rounded student pharmacist is much easier said than done, with pharmacy school being a long, winding road full of ups and downs.

From countless hours of studying to participating in pharmacy organizations to volunteering in the community, it’s no surprise that student pharmacists often struggle to find the balance as a well-rounded student. Academics are important in pharmacy school, not only to be able to matriculate through the program, but to also gain the knowledge and clinical skills to be a competent pharmacist upon entering the workforce. In order to keep up with the heavy workload of multiple classes, time management is vital to keep moving forward.

One tip is to create a study plan and schedule time each day or week to devote to a certain topic or class. There are also several study methods that can be utilized to help retain the information studied, including flash cards, creating charts/graphs, or “teaching” the topic to others.

It is also important to be involved within the community as a student pharmacist. Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care professionals to patients, whether it’s community pharmacists, ambulatory care pharmacists, or other pharmacist specialties.

Student pharmacists can get involved by hosting or participating in a variety of community service events, such as health fairs, immunization/wellness clinics, and patient education events. Planning these events can be tedious and time consuming, so another tip is to team up with colleagues to ensure these events are a success, while also gaining teamwork skills.

Participating in unique extracurricular activities that relate to the field of pharmacy is another way to be a well-rounded student pharmacist. Pharmacy schools may offer opportunities outside of school requirements to allow you to gain unique experiences or skills that you otherwise may not get as a student.

It is important to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise, not only to add to your curriculum vitae, but to also expand your scope of knowledge. Some examples of these opportunities may include becoming a certified HIV counselor/tester or participating in a compounding pharmacy bootcamp.

Additionally, involvement in summer internships that relate to your field of interest is also a unique experience. These types of opportunities may not always be available through your pharmacy school, but students can still research and seek out these experiences outside of school.

Student pharmacists can seek out these opportunities during the summer semesters when there is a lighter class workload to prevent feeling overwhelmed. It is through these types of exposures that students have the chance to gain additional skills and knowledge that will positively impact their role as a well-rounded future pharmacist. These unique experiences will also help students stand out among their peers, which can be helpful when seeking a post-graduate position.

Lastly, there are several ways in which pharmacists are leaders within the health care profession. Student pharmacists should enhance their leadership skills by getting involved in professional organizations.

There are professional organizations at a college/university, local, state, and national levels. Some of these organizations include honor societies within the school, state pharmacy organizations, Student National Pharmaceutical Association/Association of Pharmacists, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

There are several student-led initiatives within these organizations that can not only give students leadership experience, but also opportunities to volunteer in the community. It can be helpful to reach out to faculty members or upperclassmen within the pharmacy program for guidance on how to join these memberships or initiatives.

Pharmacists are not only leaders in the community, but also leaders in research and publication. It can be difficult for student pharmacists to seek out research opportunities and write manuscripts alone. As such, a helpful tip is to reach out to a faculty member or preceptor mentor to assist and guide in these endeavors because they often have experience in research and publication.

Student pharmacists often perform research that is presented at various pharmacy conferences, including the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting.

All things considered, there are many different components that can contribute to the characteristics of a well-rounded pharmacy student. In addition to gaining clinical skills and matriculating through the pharmacy program, student pharmacists can also participate in community service events, seek out extracurricular activities and leadership positions, and assist preceptors with research and manuscript writing.

Finding the balance among those components is the key. With the right resources and guidance, such as the tips and tools discussed, balancing it all can be attainable. A well-rounded student pharmacist becomes the well-rounded pharmacist that the workforce needs.

Reference

1. Reinhart, R. Nurses continue to Rate highest in Honesty, Ethics. Gallup. January 6, 2020. Accessed February 26, 2021. https://news.gallup.com/poll/274673/nurses-continue-rate-highest-honesty-ethics.aspx.