Being a rock star pharmacy intern refers to people who take full potential of their abilities and leverage innovative strategies for improving themselves, the workplace and the services a pharmacy provides. Here, 5 steps for being a rock star pharmacy intern are presented.
Authored By: Ralph Reyes, Pharm.D. Candidate 2018
The journey of becoming a professional in the field of pharmacy builds its roots in strong foundational experiences in the early years of one’s professional career. Students are able to have these experiences through internships in the community, hospital, and other settings in which pharmacists play a role.
When a student engages in internships either before or during pharmacy school, it helps build an internal compass that will navigate the student in a direction that best fits their interests, personality, and goals. Truly, the best way to learn about a profession is to immerse oneself in it through hands-on work and training to get a better feel of what qualities are needed to work as a pharmacist in each setting.
Internships are mutually beneficial arrangements that allow pharmacists in the field to educate students while the student makes his or her own contributions to the work of the pharmacist. Of course, there are definite ways to stand out amongst your peers as a “rock star intern” in a job market where there are hundreds of students lined up for each job and willing to work. Rock star pharmacy interns do not get ignored, as a cornerstone of this distinction is the maximal impact they are able to make in the workplace. Dr. Derek Hursey, Director of Pharmacy Services at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Boston, who has mentored over 24 pharmacy interns, commented on the effect of having a rock star pharmacy intern in his pharmacy:
“It makes a world of difference. In our work setting, a high performing student means our pharmacists can maximize their time engaged in patient care related activities. In the end this benefits everyone. Students can have a real positive impact in both the operational and clinical activities in the department. In the end, this impact can be felt by all and this alone will easily define our “rock star” interns!”
While professional settings differ in the types of personalities that thrive in each, there are fundamental steps one can take to prosper in all of their internships. To be a rock star intern is to maximize what you get out of each experience, to challenge yourself every day, and to work hard towards becoming the best possible version of yourself personally and professionally.
Here are the 5 steps that YOU can take to be a rock star pharmacy intern.
Step #1: Let your work be your first impression
The biggest fact that makes people worry about first impressions is that you can never re-do them.
Sometimes people think that a first impression comes from a single instance – a “make it or break it” moment that could define the rest of your interactions with someone. If the first encounter with someone comes off as awkward or if you are not generally very outgoing off the bat…do not worry. It is important to realize that actions, not just words serve as one’s first impression. Besides, you were obviously hired for a reason, all that you have to do now is to show your employer why they made the right decision in hiring you.
See the first few weeks working in your role as a pharmacy intern as a chance to prove yourself to those you are working with. Act as if this is a probationary period in which the continuance of your job is at risk and your work deliverables are what decides if you get to stay or not. Pay careful attention to detail, a skill that is a cornerstone of the pharmacy profession. Prove to the team that you are reliable and can be trusted. Showcase your existing talents to those you work with to show what you can bring to the table.
This first step of being a rock star pharmacy intern is about looking at the current responsibilities of the job and to deliver on those efficiently at the start. This proves that you are not only adequate, but you have the ability to learn quickly.
Take note when considering this initial step that your work should start and stop with the patients that you serve. Do not forget that the pharmacy is there to perform a service and it is not about how well you did or how great you are, it is about elevating the services provided and ensuring patient care is always the first priority. If the patient is not the first priority, then it is almost guaranteed that you are doing something wrong.
Step #2: Display an eagerness to learn and continuously offer to help without being prompted
Lindsey Levine, Senior Clinical Trial Manager in Clinical Operations at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals comments on what makes rock star interns stand out:
“Interns who succeed in this role are the ones that are proactive and take it upon themselves to get involved in projects, even when direction may be limited. They display an eagerness to help and learn, which is often recognized by the team early on and leads to more opportunities for the interns in the future.”
Showing an eagerness to learn is essential towards showing the team you are working with that you have enthusiasm and excitement for your role. It is easy to fall into the trap of going through the motions of any job without going outside of the established roles and responsibilities.
A rock star pharmacy intern will use downtime efficiently, offering to take on additional projects. An easy way to do this is to showcase the topics and activities that interest you and those you are working with will probably catch onto those interests, and can potentially tailor your experience towards that.
This eagerness to learn is critical to show initially, when you may not have any skills or knowledge about particular tasks for which you will be responsible. As an intern, there will be tasks which may seem daunting, because they may fall outside of your comfort zone or outside of your current abilities. What makes a rock star intern stand out is that they are able to learn the skills necessary to complete the task, hopefully with minimal direction. Offering to learn about a particular program or process will show this eagerness to learn and grow, ultimately helping to diversify your abilities and strengths.
Be warned however, even if your intention is to be the best pharmacy intern out there, you need to acknowledge your personal limits. Taking on too much responsibility or not obtaining sufficient training is also not advisable. Everyone has different skills and personal commitments. Just because one of your peers is doing more does not mean that you should necessarily follow suit. Test your limits, but make all attempts not to over-reach your bounds.
Step #3: Brush up on your abilities to manipulate computer programs
Luckily, we live in a time where with enough motivation and internal direction, we have the ability to learn about almost any skill, talent, or ability through online resources (i.g., YouTube).
Tangible and learnable skills most helpful to be familiar with in any professional setting largely revolve around computers and technology. Being the next generation of pharmacists generally comes with the benefit of growing up immersed in more technology than those who came before you. Whether you like it or not, having computers and cell phones around us from a younger age has made “millennials” sharper and more able to learn new tricks on the computer (again, in general). It would be fruitful to leverage this set of abilities and foster this as a framework for future capabilities.
The Microsoft Office programs are a great place to start in terms of learning technology, as Excel and PowerPoint have uses in all professional settings.
Interns often get tasks that are tedious, but by understanding these programs, these types of tasks can be made simple and take much less time. By establishing a firm foundation in Microsoft Office ,you will have the potential to leverage your skills to innovate new methods to approach a problem.
Commenting on this, Mrs. Levine said:
“I love sharing a vision or idea with an intern that they then translate into something on paper using a Microsoft Office program. They demonstrate skills in these programs that go beyond the basic functions and they deliver on it quickly and efficiently.”
There are many tutorial videos and articles available online and it is your job to put these capabilities to use. It is amazing what you can find on YouTube. The fundamental ability needed here is not the ability to learn, but the ability to know how to learn, navigating a vast and sometimes overwhelming set of resources.
You may be surprised how teaching your preceptor or supervisor a new trick in Microsoft Excel provides a springboard to a productive and fruitful relationship. Examples include how to use pivot tables, how to remove duplicates, how to use quick keys, how to import text files or how to use equations for making complex calculations.
Step #4: Go the extra mile and be on the lookout for ways to improve your current processes
Unfortunately, doing the bare minimum of any job is a disqualifying factor of being a rock star pharmacy intern. A major take home point here is not to look at the task you are being asked as a direct command, but rather the base of a command upon which you have the opportunity to build.
While some tasks are simple and to the point, there are other tasks that have room for creativity, giving the intern the chance to really shine. Tackle each of these types of tasks critically by understanding how you can take any deliverable above and beyond. Great interns are able to put extra time into certain tasks and projects while having an understanding of what should be prioritized. You can never go wrong with exceeding expectations in the workplace, of course, if there is time to.
This is sometimes described as the “Sundae Test.” A preceptor asks three interns to make a hot fudge sundae. The first intern gets ice-cream, a banana, whip cream and hot fudge. They put it in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon. They get a “C” grade. The second intern does all that the first one did but also puts sprinkles and pineapples on it, plus uses the preceptor’s favorite ice-cream and puts it all in a glass bowl. They get a “B” grade. The third intern does all that the second one did, but takes it even further, adding a cherry, nuts, and cone, then uses a real glass sundae dish, plus sets the table and the mood with some music and lighting. They get an “A” grade. Getting a “C” means doing what you are asked. Getting an “A” is for exceeding expectations.
Along similar lines is the idea that interns should bring a bright and refreshing presence to the workplace. As an intern, you have a fresh prospective, giving you the ability to think critically when observing the workplace’s current procedures and processes. A normal intern may accept current processes as what’s best, without giving much thought into how things can be done better. When appropriate, rock star interns act on these visions for improvement and bring change to life. If done correctly and appropriately, these changes help the student inact long-lasting change and improvement to the flow of the team and workplace.
Step #5: Make the most out of the job that may not be “the job” for you
It goes without saying that some jobs, fields in pharmacy, or even the profession as a whole may be not exactly align with your interests or personality.
In life, we will be challenged to work on tasks that maybe do not suit our interests or seem boring and tedious. In these situations, it is important to not be close-minded in the case that you are interning in a field that may not turn out to be for you. In talking about being a preceptor for students with varying degrees of interest in the profession, Dr. Hursey stated:
“Certainly, interns are in the early stages of their career so these experiences will be new with an expectation that students are fresh, engaged and excited about the profession they have chosen. However, if a student is not particular enthused about the profession, not all is lost. It is important to know that preceptors are available for these types of discussions. Preceptors understand that each students’ path to and through the profession is unique. Having these discussions and being upfront and honest will not only help build a positive relationship with the preceptor, but will allow students to help navigate the concerns they may have about their future in the profession.”
Along with expressing these concerns, realizing that there is something to learn in all settings (both positive and negative) allows the student to take something away from every experience. Learning that a particular job or career is not for you is valuable in narrowing your interests down and navigating yourself hopefully closer to something that brings out your passion. The result of being open minded to all experiences makes you a more adaptable and reliable member of the team.
It goes without saying that some of these steps will work well for some, but better for others. A rock star pharmacy intern can incorporate elements from all of these steps while also finding a way to be unique. To find this uniqueness, it is important to explore yourself, your personality, and your interests.
Find what makes you who you are and build upon it. At the end of the day we are all part of a team. The goal is to strive to bring your best to the table, in the process elevating yourself and as a result, elevating the entire team.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: