While completing a pharmacy residency may be the right decision for some graduating pharmacists, it is not the right decision for all of them. Here are 6 valid things to consider before deciding to commit to a pharmacy residency program.
Authored By: Timothy Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
The statistics show that pharmacy residency training programs are unable to support the quantity of graduates pursuing a position. In turn, to set an expectation that all graduating pharmacists should pursue a residency is unrealistic and many people feel there is too much pro-residency pressure put on students. I wrote a blog post for Pharmacy Times in 2015 to help diversify the conversation around the decision of whether or not to pursue pharmacy residency. It was read by over 250,000 people. Here is that post with some additions.
[Last updated November 2016]
The terminal year of pharmacy school is a truly exciting time. Graduation is closing in, the real world is within reach, and it is finally time to decide which direction to start a career within the honorable pharmacy profession.
Amongst all of this excitement, however, many pharmacy students find themselves wrought with stress, as they fear making a decision they may someday come to regret. One major decision many pharmacy students struggle with is whether or not to pursue post-graduate pharmacy residency training.
As someone who has completed 2 years of pharmacy residency training plus served as a preceptor to many residents and students, I believe experiences like residency play an important role in the advancement of the pharmacy profession today.
Contrary to my generally pro-residency position, however, I do not believe that going into a pharmacy residency program is the right course of action for all graduating pharmacists. Many others in the pharmacy profession feel this to be true as well and it is important that we recognize it.
In turn, I pose the following six reasons not to pursue a pharmacy residency. Note that this is meant to provoke self-reflection during the decision-making process, and potential applicants are additionally encouraged to explore all opportunities at hand, including this residency resource center meant to further support informed decision making.
1. Because you feel obligated to do a pharmacy residency
Achieving confirmation of a doctoral degree is an outstanding accomplishment that should bring tremendous pride. There is absolutely no reason why ending your training at a doctoral degree should be perceived as insufficient or “stopping short.”
While pharmacy students may observe a sizable portion of their peers moving towards the residency option, they should remember that what is needed to achieve the goals of others may be the completely wrong path to achieve their own goals.
Students should indeed heed the advice of their trusted peers and mentors, but also be reminded that the final decision is theirs to make.
A great way to identify what is most important to you is to complete an exercise in which you compose a personal mission statement. Here is a description on how to do this.
2. Because you should stay in college
The pharmacy profession continues to evolve and finding your niche or passion may require additional scholastic training. Obtaining a master of business administration, master of public health, or Juris Doctor degree are among many options worth considering.
Speaking from my own experience, some of the best physicians I have had the pleasure to work with were also pharmacists.
3. Because you should do a pharmacy fellowship instead
Many students overlook pharmacy fellowships. If you have any interest in pursuing a career as a pharmacy professor, researcher, or medical science liaison, then you should give serious consideration to pursuing a pharmacy fellowship.
If nothing else, prior to deciding against a fellowship, speak to some people who have gone down this career path, and make sure you know what you are deciding not to pursue.
The following may assist you in better understanding this consideration:
- Is pharmacy fellowship or pharmacy residency training right for you?
- He said, she said: advice for prospective pharmacy fellows
- Reality vs. expectation: competing a pharmacy fellowship in infectious diseases
- Reality vs. expectation: being a pharmacy professor
4. Because a pharmacy residency is the wrong financial decision for you
It is fairly common to graduate pharmacy school with well over $100,000 in debt. Combining this with other financial responsibilities may produce a considerable burden.
It is important to identify both the short-term sacrifices and the long-term impact that accompanies things like deferring loan payments or taking a $50,000 pay cut for a year. Equally important is remembering that the option always exists to do a residency later on, once your financial situation is better controlled.
5. Because a pharmacy residency is the wrong personal decision for you
This is a topic often ignored as students weigh the pros and cons of doing a residency, but it may be the most important thing to consider.
Residencies are time-intensive endeavors Frequently pharmacists must relocate to other cities or states to attend a program. The damaging impact this can have on relationships with friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, and family may not be worth the benefits gained from residency training.
Following all those years of schooling, is delaying those personal goals worth it? Possibly, but that is a decision for you to make.
6. Because you are unable to find a program that fits your needs
It can be a fine line to walk in regards to whether or not a program fits your needs, however I have interacted with numerous pharmacy residents who strongly regretted taking on a residency position at a site they knew was wrong for them.
Obtaining a position in a residency program just to end up quitting or being miserable is a lose-lose-lose. The resident ends up with a black mark on their record, the residency program gets an unproductive resident and somewhere another pharmacist missed out on residency altogether because the slot was already taken.
While it may be difficult to find the “perfect” program and settling with an “good enough” program is absolutely acceptable, you should think long and hard before agreeing to fill a position you are fairly certain is wrong for you.
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