Pharmacy fellowship and pharmacy residency are the two primary means for pharmacists to obtain post-graduate training. Selecting a career path that is right for you can be challenging. This post is meant to assist in differentiating the options.
With commencement season in full effect and the job market flush with newly minted PharmDs, many student pharmacists may be contemplating post-graduate training in either a residency or fellowship. Although the deadlines have already passed for this academic year, for those students in their 1st through 3rd years of pharmacy school who are watching their 4th year colleagues graduate, they may be starting to ponder their future career path after graduation.
In general there are two main choices for post-graduate training: pharmacy residency or fellowship.
Residencies are very structured 1 or 2 year learning experiences aimed at equipping trainees with the requisite skills of a clinical pharmacist. Those who complete 1 year of residency positions are typically ready for a general staff pharmacist position in either a hospital or community pharmacy setting. Conversely, those who complete a second year of training in a specialized area (e.g. solid organ transplantation) are prepared to function as a clinical pharmacy specialist. While this highly trained individual will likely spend the majority of his or her time focused on provision of direct patient care, they will also likely dedicate some effort (perhaps 10-20%) toward practice-based research projects and scholarly activity.
Fellowships, on the other hand, are much less structured. Most are not accredited by a major pharmacy society (as most residencies are), and as such the fellowship director has significant latitude in designing a program specific to the current fellow. Some fellowships do include a component of patient care, however the majority are focused on developing expertise in research and scholarship. The goal of most fellowships is to produce a pharmacist-scientist who is capable of independently functioning as a successfully, extramurally funded researcher. Whereas most pharmacists who complete residency training pursue positions in hospitals or outpatient clinics, fellowship graduates more commonly seek employment in academia or industry.
As you can see, these two pathways are quite different, and hence the decision of which to follow has to be predicated on where you see yourself practicing after graduation. If you love patient care and could not envision a job that doesn’t allow you to interact with the public on a daily basis, then a research-heavy, fellowship-based training plan may not be best for you. On the contrary, if your dream is to be a faculty member at a college of pharmacy, particularly one where research and scholarship are expected, then a fellowship should be part of your post-graduate training.
Personally, I think that the ideal pathway may be to complete both. A post-graduate year one (PGY1) residency provides a very fundamental skill set that I feel all pharmacists practicing in the 21st century require. The basics of patient care, drug information, health care administration, and independent clinical decision making are all instilled as part of a PGY1 training program.
Completion of a pharmacy fellowship adds tremendously to a PGY1 foundation, and helps to grow and nurture creativity and independence. These skills will prove very useful even if you don’t end up pursuing a research focused career.
My former mentor completed a PGY1 residency training program followed by a 2 year Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy Fellowship. While he did spend some time in academia, he eventually transitioned over to hospital leadership, and he is presently the Director of Pharmacy for a large academic teaching center. It’s easy for me to see how the abilities to set a vision and to foster innovation that he learned during fellowship translated very effectively in his new role as a hospital manager.
As you can see, the decision of which post-graduate career path to follow is complex and multifaceted. I would encourage you that when facing this decision, a certain degree of introspection is mandatory.
Take time during school to explore different extracurricular activates and be sure to explore a diverse set of Introductory and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Rotations (IPPEs and APPEs) in order to find your true passion.
Seeking out the advice of a trusted mentor is also essential. In the end, only you can decide what type of post-graduate training is best for you.
FELLOWSHIP & RESIDENCY RESOURCES:
- IDstewardship’s Reality Check (insight into various clinical pharmacy specialties)
- ASHP Pharmacy Residency Directory
- ACCP Residency & Fellowship Directory
- SIDP Infectious Diseases Pharmacy Fellowship & Residency Listings
- ASHP Residency Resource Center
- Get the Residency, ASHP’s Guide to Residency Interviews & Preparation
- ACCP Postgraduate Residency Information & Resources
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