Reaching the top of the “pharmacy success pyramid”

SPM: Preceptor Feedback


“Brandon,” congratulations on starting your final year of pharmacy school. This is an exciting time where you decide on the path most suited to your skills in order to provide the best patient care. This is key to determining your post-graduation career and it seems you have found it with your internal medicine rotation.

Your rotation in the Wild West sounds very similar to an internal medicine rotation I had with an adjunct faculty member at my school of pharmacy. The rotation seemed intimidating at first, but ultimately it was one of the best 4 weeks during my time in school. My preceptor not only reinforced my clinical knowledge but also gave me several professional experiences I would like to pass on to you.

Rock star status

To begin, I would like to speak to you from the perspective of a pharmacist who was hired at one of the rotation sites I visited during my final year. Based on this experience, I categorize students into three levels that make up the “pharmacy success pyramid.”

In order to reach the top, you must first have a good base. Your base consists of the fundamentals of professionalism: do not be late, treat everyone (not just your preceptor, but all staff) with respect, and complete projects on time. From there you can build up to the knowledge portion of the pyramid. Be a student who is prepared, someone who is not afraid to answer questions on rounds or at journal clubs, and review notes on disease states you know you will encounter. These students, like you, are learning to be progressive pharmacists who use clinical skills to dose medications based on pharmacokinetics and provide medication counseling to patients at discharge.

After you are comfortable with these steps, you can excel to the top of the pyramid and become what I call a student pharmacist rock star. These are the students who are confident in their knowledge and go above and beyond. Volunteer to take on the more difficult patients during rounds and read guidelines for disease states and articles on different treatments. Do not be afraid to take the time to look something up if you are not quite sure of the answer but always follow up with your researched result. Be the student who is constantly promoting the value of a pharmacist not only during medical rounds but also through involvement in state and national organizations.

Preceptors are there for you

By reaching the top of the pyramid, you will challenge yourself and showcase your knowledge because it provides you the perfect way to demonstrate your ability to learn, problem solve, and communicate. As you achieve rock star status, you will begin the transition from student pharmacist to pharmacist and drug information resource. It is important to assume this role as the pharmacist on rounds. Research and prepare for disease states you know you will encounter on rounds by reading overviews of treatments and medications. Make sure you have medication resources readily available for the questions you cannot predict. Whether using a medication information book or phone app, be comfortable with how the information is laid out so you can research quickly and efficiently.

If you are unsure of how to become a rock star on each rotation, ask your preceptor. Preceptors are there to guide you through your rotation and mold you into a fellow pharmacist colleague. They also will be able to provide you advice on inter-professional communication and medication resources specific to your site. They want you to succeed as much as you do. But, they also want you to challenge yourself. As a preceptor, I believe students get out what they put in. You might think you are risking the appearance of your competency when asked difficult questions on a difficult patient, but your preceptors will notice that you are willing to challenge yourself in order to make yourself a better pharmacist.

Show initiative now

You are correct in the fact that rotations are 4- to 6-week long interviews, so use that to your advantage. If you are interested in a job or residency at your current site, visit with the residency program director or pharmacist in charge and ask what type of candidate they are looking to hire. Have your resume reviewed by your preceptor and other staff members. This is an opportunity for your potential employer to see how you will succeed as a pharmacist or resident at that site or pharmacy. Keep in mind interviews for residencies are only 1 to 2 days long and rotations are 28 to 42 days long. Having this opportunity will give you an advantage going into job interviews and the match process.

Continue to challenge yourself and make yourself an integral part of the medical team. Good luck on the remainder of your rotations!