Pharm to table
Farm to table is a fine-dining movement that promotes fresh, locally grown food without the use of a middleman, so the food on your plate is coming straight from the source. When I think of this fresh concept, I’m reminded of my transition from a student to a practitioner in the clinical workforce. Like me, many students don’t take the time to reflect on what happens after making it to the finish line. Instead, we focus on getting across that stage and hearing our names called out, naively assuming that the rest will work itself out.
Little did I know that the transition into the workforce was going to be a journey all its own.
Rotation changes everything
My plans after school always included being a community pharmacist. One of the things I fell in love with about community pharmacy was the unlimited amount of patient interaction. Much like the farm to table movement, a community pharmacy removes the middleman and allows practitioners to interact directly with the patients. I loved the fast-paced environment mixed with the faithful patients that I developed a relationship with over the years. It made me feel that I was making a direct difference. “You will never have to work a day in your life if you love what you do” is the saying that always stays with me. And if I can give back, I with me, and I will try anything in my power to achieve that.
When it was time for my APPEs, one of the required rotations was in ambulatory care, which was foreign to me. Similar to high-end restaurant chains that have incorporated the farm to table work process, this type of interaction did not have to start and end at the community pharmacy level. I dove in headfirst and landed a rotation at AdventHealth, which is the same Orlando, FL, hospital system where I was born 29 years ago. Raised in Orlando, I have a soft spot for the city, and a dream of mine that isn’t vocalized as much as I want is to give back to the one place that made me who I am today. Orlando is a city so bright and beautiful that sunshine is what you feel living within it. Lucky for me, I was able to secure all of my rotations back home.
Every rotation taught me valuable lessons and confirmed that pharmacy was the place for me, but during the first week of my ambulatory care residency, I felt something different. My husband asked me how I was liking my rotation, and I remember looking at him and saying, “I think I may have found it.” I knew strongly within the first 7 days that I had found my niche. Ambulatory care was the fusion of everything I loved about the community setting, mixed with my undeniable need to make a difference in the world. Over the next 6 weeks, I soaked up everything the rotation had to offer and finally decided to apply for a residency in the place that had played such a vital role in my decision to pursue one in the first place.
Residency, the next chapter
Applying to residency seemed overwhelming, but as I went through the match process, there was something exciting about it all. It felt like I was applying to better myself for something that I was born to do. When I got the e-mail that I had matched, I was sitting in my car staring at my inbox in disbelief—excited but nervous about this next chapter in my life, when I would be making clinical decisions for actual human beings. After learning mostly from books for the past 8 years, I would be applying this knowledge to implementing clinical changes in patient care. Some of you will know this feeling soon.
I thought that passing all my courses, not the actual part of practicing pharmacy, would show what type of clinician I was going to be. When farmers set out to grow crops, I suppose they don’t really think of the wide net impact their locally sourced produce will have on the neighboring communities. They start off with the intention to make something good that will enrich their and others’ lives. I had a similar mindset. I set out to make a difference in the world of health care, not realizing how far my passion could reach.
Along with helping to mold me into the type of pharmacist I wanted to become, the residency developed in me a passion for teaching. I was inspired by some amazing mentors who went above and beyond for me as a student. They showed me that not knowing much about what happens after you get those six letters added to the end of your name is okay.
Providing patient care services to my community isn’t the only way I want to give back. Like my mentors did for me, I want to make a difference in someone’s life and spread that kindness for generations to come, maybe eventually—after years of clinical experience—by becoming a residency program director. I want to carry on the legacy of teaching to peers along the way, hoping that my passion will be contagious.
The ongoing journey
Whatever may come next is an unfamiliarity that I could not be more enthused about, which makes it all right. If you are confused about what to do next, just like I was, know that life has a funny way of taking you where you need to be. This ongoing journey from “pharm to table” has helped me grow and evolve. Good luck with your own journey—and bon appétit!
Shruti Thompson, PharmD, is a clinical staff pharmacist at Advent Health in Celebration, FL. The author would like to acknowledge Elizabeth Powell, PharmD, BCACP, and Priyanka Sharma for their contributions to the article.