Six rotations. That is how long it took me to finally have a rotation that exposed me to direct patient care. This may seem a little bit odd since I am training to be a pharmacist, but my previous five rotations had indirect roles in patient care, and the one rotation that was in acute patient care had patients who were heavily sedated. I won’t deny that it made me nervous and it took me awhile to warm up to talking to patients. Somehow, I had become more comfortable with talking to physicians rather than patients, because I had always done my research beforehand.
My role consisted of attending clinic 4 times a week to conduct medication reconciliation before the nurse or physician saw the patient. The patients at the clinic often came back for their 3-month, 6-month, or yearly visit, and they had built relationships with my preceptor, the nurses, and physicians in the clinic. I saw the amount of trust the patients had in the staff. When I went into a room to do a medication reconciliation, the patients didn’t give me any trouble and they answered all my questions, but I saw the difference when I shadowed the staff. The patients were eager to discuss all the details of their swelling and difficulty breathing, but when I had asked, I merely received acknowledgement of these discomforts.
If I could offer advice for a student pharmacist unsure of what they want to pursue after graduation, it would be to make sure you have a mix of direct and indirect patient care rotations in the beginning half of the year.
This rotation had a bit of a learning curve for me because I was exposed to the world of insurance for the first time. We don’t have a class focused on the details of insurance, but I thought I understood the big picture. Through a series of communications with community pharmacies and completing prior authorizations, however, I learned that there was a lot I did not know.
While my preceptor did help answer many of my questions along the way, I am thankful for the other student pharmacist who was at this rotation site. He had been working at an independent pharmacy and was all too familiar with communicating with insurance companies and patients. Since my preceptor was also a faculty member and had to spend a decent amount of time on campus, this student pharmacist had become a mentor for me.
Apart from my preceptor and fellow student pharmacist, the clinic had nurses and nurse practitioners who were instrumental to my learning process. I appreciated being able to see their multidisciplinary approach to caring for their patients as they each brought their expertise to the table.
My ambulatory care rotation was the perfect precursor to my last and final rotation at CVS Pharmacy! So far, my preceptor does a great job with helping me feel integrated with the team and highlighting relevant teaching points. I put to use my experience from rotation six by talking to patients and working with insurance companies. This prior exposure helps me feel better prepared, and I understand more of the big picture involving the communication chain between prescribers, payers, patients, and pharmacies.
If you are curious whether I applied for a residency … I considered it. I went as far as to apply and interview. But when it came down to it, a residency just wasn’t for me. Passion is a driving force that helps you accomplish something you may have believed to be impossible. During my interview, one interviewer had mentioned how a passion for patient care is key to thriving in a residency, especially when the going gets tough. As disheartened as I was that I didn’t get a fellowship, I wasn’t passionate about a residency.
Through a combination of hard work, networking, and optimism, I hope to find a job that leads me on a path to do work of which I can be proud. I am casting a broader job search with the intent of gaining skills that may be valuable in industry. In the wise words of Dory, there is one thing I can do: “Just keep swimming.”
To our Preceptor Feedback author, I ask: How do you think student pharmacists can build trust with their patients when they don’t see the patients regularly? After graduation, are there any opportunities to learn about other fields within pharmacy besides reading about them online?
See you next issue, when you will meet the real “Stephanie.”