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Tips for New Residents

Monday, July 23, 2018  
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by. Daniel Jenniches, Pharm.D.

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist - Trauma/Surgical ICU

Allegheny General Hospital

 In preparation for my PGY2 residency exit interview, I completed an online questionnaire provided by my residency program coordinator. One question was “What advice would you give to incoming pharmacy residents?” I had difficulty answering this; however, I did write in one piece of advice and moved on with the rest of the survey. It bothered me that I did not have a better answer to this as I was nearing the completion of two years of residency. I continued to dwell on this question over the next several days and came up with the following suggestions.

My first piece of advice is to take initiative in your own learning. It is impossible to learn everything there is to know in one to two years. This is why residency training places so much emphasis on how to identify and evaluate literature and become a lifelong learner. Taking initiative in your own learning could simply include reviewing a topic outside of your official topic discussions for a rotation. Also, if you are given pre-readings for a topic discussion, augment those readings with primary literature that you have identified. Remember, you will not have someone to force you to learn after residency.

I think this goes well with my next piece of advice, learn to evaluate yourself. Residency is an endless sea of evaluations, so you might as well become proficient at it. Coming into your PGY1 year, take a serious inventory of your weaknesses and strengths and how you can improve your areas of weakness. This is how you identify topics you need to learn more about or skills you need to further develop. It is a skill that you will need to carry with you into your post-residency career, because no one will be watching your daily practice closely to tell you what you need to improve.

The answer that I wrote in the online survey for my residency exit interview was: use your PTO (paid time off) days when you need a break. Many preceptors emphasized work-life balance, but I was admittedly very bad at this during both my PGY1 and PGY2 years. I remember coming off of a rather difficult on-call week that ended with my cat suffering from bilateral femur fractures, which prompted an animal hospital ER visit that lasted until 3 am. This was the first time during my PGY1 year that I took a day off simply because I needed it. There were many times after this occasion that I took off a day because I needed a break, but don’t be like me and wait until March to do this. Residency is difficult, make it easier on yourself.

I would also advise new pharmacy residents to demonstrate ownership of their patients. I think this is the most important trait differentiating pharmacy residents from students. You cannot count on your preceptor to fix a mistake or to catch something that you missed. Whether it is direct patient care, developing a protocol, or performing a medication use evaluation, you are responsible for your actions and they will affect patients. You may be there to learn, but you are also licensed and paid to perform your responsibilities as a pharmacist.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists provides a Comprehensive Guide for transitioning into residency. However, no one can provide you with guidance to prepare you for every situation that you will encounter. This is why I will leave you with my favorite piece of advice that aided me during residency training: lean into discomfort. This means that if something makes you uncomfortable, keep doing whatever that is until you are more comfortable with it. This could be public speaking, responding to codes, or in my case, professional writing. I wish you luck in this next phase of your pharmacy career!


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