Pursuing my happiness
Nothing quite prepared me for the professional growth and discovery that was my fourth professional year in the Purdue University’s College of Pharmacy program. As a student pharmacist, I shuffled through various pharmacy settings, including community, long-term care, and in-patient at a children’s hospital. I was hoping to gain a variety of experiences in an attempt to solidify a practice to pursue. At the time, it seemed most of my classmates had their postgraduate goals set. Inevitably, this led to feelings of uneasiness, stress, and nerves due to self-inflicted pressure. Fortunately, my APPE rotation at Cardinal Health in San Diego resulted in what I describe as my “epiphany.”
This rotation was my first hands-on nuclear pharmacy experience outside of my didactic coursework at Purdue. It was a month of many firsts: working my first week of night shift, drawing my first radioactive patient dose, compounding my first radioactive kit, and performing quality control. It was the month the dots were connected. I observed and participated in the daily nuclear pharmacy operations that I had spent the last 3 years learning through an elective course series. This “epiphany” changed the course of my impending pharmacy career.
Nuclear as a New Practitioner
My postgraduate career began as a nuclear staff pharmacist at Cardinal Health in Atlanta, GA. My staffing responsibilities routinely include compounding radiopharmaceuticals, receiving phone call orders, and overseeing the dispensing, dispatching, and quality control testing of radiopharmaceutical products. Aside from staffing, a career in nuclear does offer opportunities for advancement. My personal career journey has grown to include leading clinical trial involvement, projects involving quality control testing of various radiopharmaceuticals, and most recently, training to serve as the radiation safety officer for my pharmacy. These opportunities have both challenged and prepared me to practice at the top of my license.
My transition from student pharmacist to New Practitioner has been one of immense personal and professional growth. Learning how to navigate relationships, developing “thick skin” in challenging moments, adapting my communication style with various personalities, and most importantly, building up my own self-confidence in a professional leadership role have been areas of work-in-progress. You never know what call, question, or curve ball may come your way at 4:00 am when you’re working solo or when you’ll find yourself working in offline mode because the computer system went down, but if there is one thing that the last two and half years has taught me—always have a “why” with every decision you make.
As a New Practitioner, you are a leader, a decision-maker, and someone to whom your staff will turn. If you can explain the “why” to the decision you made in that moment, chances are it’s the right one. In the case a better one could have been selected, your “why” will open the door to a conversation of learning and growth.
Megan Unger, PharmD, is a nuclear pharmacist at Cardinal Health in Atlanta, GA. She is currently in training to lead her site’s radiation safety program. Aside from her professional work setting, she enjoys traveling, leading an active, outdoor lifestyle, and taking long walks with her dog, “Atley.”