Everything You Need to Know to Get a Pharmacy Residency

Since pharmacists are becoming more clinically involved, it is becoming increasingly important to keep up with modern medicine. As such, a residency after graduation from pharmacy school is a great way to gain exposure to the latest developments and to get a job as a hospital or clinical pharmacist.

Residency for pharmacists take place over 2 years (PGY-1 and PGY-2). The first year is general and provides a wide range of study and helps future pharmacists decide which clinical areas to focus on. The second year is specific and allows the future pharmacist to specialize in a particular field of pharmacy medicine.

Residency specialties offered include health system pharmacy administration, nutrition, informatics, critical care, emergency medicine, psychiatric medicine, solid organ transplant, pharmacotherapy, geriatric care, managed care, pediatric care, internal medicine, infectious diseases, ambulatory care, drug information, oncology, medication use safety, nuclear pharmacy, and cardiology.

To get a residency, prospective candidates go through a matching system that is sponsored by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP). Candidates can attend Midyear for the Residency Showcase and sign up for the Personnel Placement Service (PPS) where they can meet with representatives from various residency programs in December. After reviewing residency programs, candidates complete an application and attend interviews. Applications require an updated resume, transcript, reference letters, and essays. The applicant selects from their favorite residency programs and the residency program selects their top picks for candidates. Residency is given if there is a match between an applicant’s selection and the residency program’s pick.

Going through a residency program is a tough challenge, but it is essential if you want to be a pharmacist in a clinical role. Read about clinical pharmacists here to make sure that this is the right career path for you.

Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical pharmacists focus more on clinical work than dispensing medications compared to other pharmacists.  Many work in hospital settings and visit patients along with physicians to determine the best treatment options.  The role of a clinical pharmacist is essential because potent drugs have side effects that can be detrimental if the wrong dose is given.

A clinical pharmacist needs to document the amount of drugs given and the concentration of the drug in the patient to assure that enough drug is given to be effective and that not too much is given to be harmful.  The clinical pharmacist also needs to know about conditions in the patient that may affect the drug level.  For example, liver and kidney damage can affect the concentration of drugs in a person’s body and the pharmacist needs to determine a special dose for the unique situation.  Common areas that clinical pharmacists monitor relate to anticoagulation, diabetes, hypertension, infection, oncology, and mental health.

Clinical pharmacists also check for drug interactions and the appropriateness of drug use.  It isn’t uncommon for a clinical pharmacist to notice that a prescribed antibiotic isn’t effective for a particular strain of bacteria and suggest a change.

Most clinical pharmacists have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) and 2 years of residency experience.  Since they are experienced professionals with specialized knowledge, some clinical pharmacists are affiliated with pharmacy schools and participate in educating future pharmacists.

The job as a clinical pharmacist is challenging, but can be very rewarding for pharmacists who enjoy the clinical aspects of pharmacy more than the dispensing and manufacturing parts of pharmacy.  The most important thing is to find a fit that is right for you.

Poison Control Pharmacist

Pharmacists who work at Poison Control Centers (PCC) receive calls from medical professionals and patients about drugs and toxicity.  Some calls may be from a concerned parent of a child who ingested several gummy vitamins, while other calls may be from a physician asking about the use of expired medications in an emergency situation.  Regardless of the nature of the call, a pharmacist must use their clinical knowledge to provide the best answer and recommend appropriate treatment options if necessary.

Pharmacists Help with Drug Questions

Most Poison Control Centers are open 24 hours so rotating shifts may be necessary if you want to be a pharmacist at a Poison Control Center.  The salary is usually competitive with hospital pharmacists and may exceed $100,000 a year.  There are over 50 Poison Control Centers across the nation in the US so there is a lot of flexibility in job locations.

Since work at a Poison Control Center is more clinically oriented, a residency after pharmacy school is preferred.  Also, knowing multiple languages can help since there may be calls from people who are more comfortable speaking a foreign language.

5 Reasons to Become a Pharmacist

1.  Passion for Medicine

You enjoy medicine and want to be part of the healthcare team to help people live better lives.  From the drug store patient who comes in for cough syrup to the emergency room patient who needs lifesaving infusions, a pharmacist is always there to make a difference.

2.  Profession of Growth

You want to be part of the growing healthcare industry.  As more and more people get older, healthcare will continue to grow and become a larger part of the economy.  Pharmacists are an essential part of the healthcare team and will also benefit from this growth.  The BLS estimates that growth for pharmacists will be faster than average.

3.  Great Benefits

You want to make a good salary in a stable profession.  The median salary for pharmacists exceed $100,000 a year.  New pharmacy graduates can earn over $100,000 and have an easier time paying back student loans compared to other college majors.

4.  Many Options

You want a degree that gives you a lot of flexibility.  Pharmacists can work in a variety of settings.  Retail pharmacy, hospital, drug industry, health insurance industry, and pharmacy consulting industry are just some of the available job options for pharmacists.

5.  Prestigious Profession

You want to be an important part of your community.  Pharmacists consistently rank high on polls for trustworthiness and many people count on the pharmacist to give them unbiased advice.  Many pharmacists feel a sense of joy when they know they are making the community they live in better.

How Being a Pharmacy Technician Sets You Up To Become a Pharmacist

Getting a job as a pharmacy technician is a great way to gain experience in a pharmacy and to make money while in school.  According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians make $13.65 per hour or $28,400 per year.  Job growth in the field is expected to be high.

A pharmacy technician helps a pharmacist by entering data from patients and preparing medications for the pharmacist to dispense.  Most pharmacy technicians become familiar with medications, which gives them an advantage when it comes the courses in pharmacy school.  Also, many technicians network with pharmacists and pharmacy store managers, which makes it much easier to find a job later on if they want to become pharmacists.

Educational requirements usually require a high school diploma and increasingly, certifications from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).  Certification from the PTCB requires passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).  Some people choose to study for the exam on their own, but a few take courses at pharmacy schools designed to give them the knowledge needed to pass the exam.

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a good start to become a pharmacist.  Don’t miss out on a chance to gain real work experience, drug knowledge, and a networking opportunity.

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Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination

Passing the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination) is necessary to become a pharmacist in most states in the US. Exceptions are Arkansas, California, and Virginia, which have their own law exam.

The exam contains 90 multiple choice questions that must be completed within 2 hours. Questions will ask about both federal and state laws for your chosen state of licensure. A score of 75 or higher is required to pass.

The MPJE exam tests you on:

  • Legal aspects of pharmacy practice, including responsibilities with regard to the distribution and dispensing of pharmaceuticals and for the care of patients.
  • Licensure, registration, certification, and operational requirements.
  • Regulatory structure and terms of the laws and rules that regulate or affect pharmacists, pharmacies, manufacturers, and distributors.

More information about the exam can be found at the NABP.
http://www.nabp.net/programs/examinations/mpje

Most recent pharmacy students pass the MPJE for the state that they went to pharmacy school in. However, if you are looking to get a license in a different state, you should get an exam guide to show you the differences between state laws. A state law guide is not only good to pass the exam, but it will also give you the knowledge you need to practice pharmacy in the state without unknowingly breaking laws!

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North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX)

Passing the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination) is necessary to become a pharmacist in the US.

The exam contains 185 questions that must be completed within 4 hours and 15 minutes. There is an optional 10 minute break after the first 2 hours. The questions are multiple choice and some have a K-Type format. A 75 or higher score is required to pass.

The 3 main competencies that the NAPLEX tests you on are your abilities to:

  • Assess pharmacotherapy to assure safe and effective therapeutic outcomes (56% of exam)
  • Assess safe and accurate preparation and dispensing of medications (33% of exam)
  • Assess, recommend, and provide health care information that promotes public health (11% of exam)

More information about the exam can be found at the NABP.
http://www.nabp.net/programs/examination/naplex/naplex-blueprint

Although the exam usually has a high pass rate for pharmacy students who recently graduated, it doesn’t hurt to get an exam guide since those who fail will need to wait an entire 91 days before retaking the exam. Don’t risk putting your job search on hold while waiting to retake the exam!

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Thriving in the Job Market

Finding a Job

The time has finally arrived. You have completed your education and the requirements to become a pharmacist. Now you just have to find a job to become a pharmacist. Hopefully, you maintained your good grades through pharmacy school, have gotten real experience working in a pharmacy, and have networked with everyone you met in class and on rotations. If you haven’t, it will take longer to find a job and become a pharmacist, but our guides will help you get there faster.

Getting a job as a pharmacist requires you to:

  1. Identify all the employers that you are interested in
  2. Contact the employers in a way that will get you noticed
  3. Ace the interview process

Key Milestones:

  • Get a job
  • Maintain license
  • Continue improving

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Making the Most of Pharmacy School

Pharmacy School

Congratulations on gaining entry to a pharmacy school! It is a big achievement, but there is still more ahead before you can become a pharmacist.

The courses in pharmacy school are much more challenging than the classes in undergraduate education, but it is still important to continue to do well in class so that you can find a job after graduation. Study groups and study guides can help you reach your goals.

There are several options after graduating from pharmacy school. Some people choose to go directly to work, others choose to do a residency or fellowship. Networking becomes extremely important as you get closer to graduation.

Key Milestones:

  • Complete pharmacy school with a 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Get a job as a pharmacy technician or intern
  • Apply for residency (optional)
  • Apply for fellowship (optional)
  • Get a state pharmacy license by passing the NAPLEX, MPJE, and other requirements

Time for Completion: 2-4 years

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Building a Strong Foundation in Undergrad

Undergraduate Education

There are 2 paths to pharmacy school. One involves 2 years of undergraduate coursework before transferring to a 4 year pharmacy school and the other involves completing a 4 year Bachelor degree and then going to a 4 year pharmacy school. It is important to maintain a good GPA and to excel in the science courses. The introductory chemistry courses will be an important foundation for future classes in pharmacy school.

At this time, students should meet with pharmacy students so they can get an idea of what to expect in pharmacy school. Also, students should try to get a job at a pharmacy and gain experience.

Key Milestones:

  • Complete undergraduate education with a 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Network with current pharmacy students to get an idea of what to expect
  • Get a 430 or higher score on PCAT (if necessary)
  • Complete pharmacy school application (if necessary)
  • Prepare for pharmacy school admission interview
  • Get a job at a pharmacy

Time for Completion: 4-6 years

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