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New Practitioner

Congratulations! After spending countless hours studying for exams, completing patient cases and journal clubs, and finalizing capstone assignments, the graduation countdown on your smartphone finally says “0.” Graduation is an exciting time during which you should celebrate your achievements with family and friends. Student pharmacists can spend 4 to 8 years preparing for that esteemed PharmD, but the time after graduation can be perplexing. 

If you find yourself wondering what to expect in the weeks, months, and years after graduation, this article was written for you.

Some advice for 2017 grads

The following steps can serve as a guide for your time after graduation. Each new graduate will certainly experience a different path during his or her time as a new practitioner, but hopefully these steps will address some of the commonly asked questions.

1. Take a breather. Although the idea of taking time to unwind after graduation can be (ironically) overwhelming, this period can provide some much needed R&R (rest and relaxation) to recharge. Depending on when you schedule your NAPLEX and MPJE exams, I recommend taking at least 1 week of personal time to recuperate after graduation. 

2. Conquering the dreaded NAPLEX and MPJE. Understandably, graduates experience a significant amount of stress and anxiety when preparing, even thinking about, these exams (Note: the NAPLEX is a therapeutics exam and the MPJE is a law exam). Here are a few tips.

  • Before graduation, create your e-Profile with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). This will save time and potential frustration when scheduling your exams. 

  • After graduation, your college of pharmacy will release your Approval to Test (ATT), and you will receive an e-mail and directions to schedule your exams. 

  • Testing is completed at Pearson VUE locations, which are located throughout the United States. Your ATT letter will include instructions to create a Pearson account, dates you are eligible to test, your NABP ID number, and test authorization number. Upon scheduling your exams, you will receive confirmation of your date and time, and directions to the exam center. 

  • Develop a “syllabus” for studying. It should include dates and times as well as topic(s) you plan to cover during each study session. Adhering to your syllabus ensures that you follow a regimented schedule and cover all topics. Also, purchase study materials based on your respective learning style (books, flash cards, live review sessions, etc.).

  • Some graduates need to be licensed in multiple states. For example, I completed my residency in Iowa, but planned to return to Ohio. You will be asked to designate a primary state (mine is Ohio) and can add additional states (mine is Iowa). See sidebar for more information.

3. Whew! It’s your first year as a new practitioner. During your first year as a pharmacist, you will need to use your drug information skills to research topics you have forgotten, and you will say, “I’m not sure, let me look that up for you,” more times than you did as a student. Practice makes perfect, so ignore the notion that you should already know everything there is to know about pharmacy. Most importantly, remember that your patients’ lives depend on the fact that you are comfortable enough to say, “I don’t know.” 

4. Continuous progress. As you progress through your career, I recommend a few things.

  • Make an effort to keep in contact with previous classmates for peer support.

  • Continue to recruit mentors that offer advice and an extensive network.

  • Update your CV at least quarterly.

  • Remain involved in state and national organizations (like the APhA New Practitioner Network), and consider a leadership role. 

The time after graduation can be overwhelming and guidance for its navigation can certainly be ambiguous. Best of luck, fellow new practitioners!

Tips for pursuing licensure in a different state 

1. Read the NABP NAPLEX/MPJE Registration Bulletin for information regarding scheduling, test format, and ID requirements.

2. Search your new state’s board of pharmacy website for FAQs, licensure requirements, and law updates. The NABP website has a page with each state board’s contact information at 

3. Ask your school or new employer for law review material recommendations. 

4. Do not be afraid to call the board of pharmacy with questions.

5. Be courteous and professional in your interactions with different entities involved in your licensure.

Time after graduation can seem packed with to-do’s such as paperwork, moving, and studying. Early planning allows you to celebrate this milestone and appreciate those who have supported you!

Laura C. Kuhn, PharmD, is a PGY1 Community-based Pharmacy Practice Resident at the University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy and St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in Cincinnati, OH. 



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