11 Tips to Ensure a Successful Pharmacy Residency Experience

11 Tips to Ensure a Successful Pharmacy Residency Experience

Finally, all of that hard work you’ve invested into pharmacy school has paid off and you’ve landed yourself a residency position. You feel like it is now your moment to shine and gain the tools to transcend pharmacy practice. Right now, you are about a quarter of the way through and it’s hitting you hard. Whether you’re already burned out or looking to right your early wrongs, here is some tips that will ensure a successful residency experience….and for those who are thinking about residency next year, consider this your early insider!

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  1. First and foremost, master the art of time management.

It seems like on every feedback you get through residency, it always centers around “time management”. Mastering the skill of effectively managing your time is a lifelong commitment and it will be challenged throughout your residency training. Be open-minded to new ways of doing things, set deadlines for yourself, and avoid the crash and burn associated with the ‘seemingly effective’ strategy of procrastinating. Effective time management is not easy and requires a whole post dedicated to it. The honest truth is that it may take a full year of residency to finally get it right. You will also find that good time management skills in pharmacy school does NOT automatically equal good time management in residency. It’s a different ball game. However, it is paramount and is going to be the constant theme of residency. Now say it with me: “I’ll have to pass on happy hour this time guys, I have to get a head start on my presentation next week.”


  1. Be a sponge.

You only have a year to be a proclaimed “clinically trained pharmacist”. The world is going to be looking at you to pretty much save the world as soon as you get out. Make it a point to absorb all the knowledge that’s being thrown your way. Take advantage of topic discussions, conferences, presentations, random look-ups, latest journal articles, committee meetings, etc. Now say it with me: “I should probably check out one of those P&T meetings since I want to actually do this whole pharmacy thing ”

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  1. Rotations are the bread and butter.

Amidst all that is going, do not forget the importance of each rotation. It is your sole opportunity to practice independently with some little training wheels. This is your opportunity to expand upon your pharmacy knowledge and hone in on your clinical abilities. At this point you are a pharmacist and eventually you will be expected to make sound decisions and troubleshoot major issues (without a preceptor). Now say it with me: “I should probably work up patients before rounds to ensure I don’t kill anyone today”



  1. You do NOT know everything (yet).

You were not selected for this residency because you knew all there is to know about pharmacy. You were chosen because of your work ethic and potential. Therefore there should be no pressure to answer all questions thrown at you (or feel bad because you do not know the answer). If that was the case you wouldn’t need residency, right? Your only duty is to provide the right answer, not any answer. You don’t want to jeopardize a patient’s life all in the sake of “looking smart”. Now say it with me: “hmm…you know what, I actually don’t know, I’ll get back to you.

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  1. Research is your new bestfrienemy.

First and foremost, choose a project you will enjoy doing. This is your new year-long baby; love it, and cherish it.  Your research project will take over your life, on top of the thousand other tasks you have to complete. Creating a timeline will ensure that you complete tasks on time and give adequate time for your team to review key materials (there goes that time management thing again). Despite the 10 other preceptor names on the project, be prepared to do almost ALL the work; from IRB approval to data collection, to compiling the poster. EVERYTHING. Ultimately, enjoy the experience and set out to improve healthcare practice. Now say it with me: “Research is bae.”


  1. Never be afraid to ask questions and/or seek help.

Your program director, preceptors and other colleagues are definitely #teamYOU and are there to better assist you in your professional development.  But remember, people can only help those who help themselves. Make sure you have actually tried to seek the answer yourself first. Now say it with me: “Hey can you explain the pathophysiology of Lewy Body disease? The 240 articles I checked on pubmed last night didn’t have the answer.”


  1. Readily invite feedback and constructive criticism.

Whether we like it or not, criticism will come. Unfortunately there will be an onslaught of that throughout the year, especially in the beginning months (see point #4). Just have to remember this is all for your growth. We all intend to put our best foot forward in all that we do, yet there is always an opportunity for improvement.  Criticism just means you are not at the “best you” yet so be open to the growth. You do not want to enter residency, the same person as you came in. Constantly seek feedback. Now say it with me: “What did you think about that presentation I bombed today?”


  1. You will most likely change your mind on areas of interest.

Everything is exciting. You thought you wanted to do ambulatory care, now you find yourself obsessed with everything related to critical care, and that’s ok. It is normal to love and simultaneously hate various aspects of pharmacy, but residency allows you to explore your true passions. Be open-minded to new possibilities. Now say it with me: “I should probably not try to specialize in everything”


  1. Do not; I repeat DO NOT compare yourself to your others especially your co-residents.

We all learn and grow differently. Our educational paths and backgrounds are all distinct. However, you wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t qualified. Residency training is a time for you to focus on YOU! Now say it with me: “I’m doing residency for me to get better, not to be better than everyone else”


  1. Have a work-life balance. Be a human being.

Residency is not meant to kill you, nor is it intended for you to hate life. Though the process is not an easy one, you absolutely CANNOT drive yourself into a deep dark irreconcilable depression. It’s ok to take a break at times. Sure you want to be stellar during your time as a resident, however you can’t lose yourself in the process. Take a break from time to time, and practice a healthy work-life balance. There are times where you are literally unable to function optimally. Some of your worst performances will be the times where you powered through 18 straight hours and “forgot to take a break” as your body slowly crumbled. When it’s all said and done, YOU are the one that has to face the friends and family that you deserted through that time, not your RPD or preceptors. Now say it with me: “I will not get kicked out of residency if I occasionally notify my friends and family that I’m still alive”


  1. Seek opportunities and go beyond.

If all you did through residency was cruise through and sponge it (see item #2) then you wasted your time. Always seek opportunities go beyond and step outside the box. Part of your growth is the ability to recognize opportunities for development in your environment. You will be surprised when you let your passion flow and step outside your comfort zone. Who knows, It may lead to a new hospital policy or transform the way the facility practices. It is always great to leave a legacy behind if you have the opportunity to do so (it could even potentially lead to a job offer). At the same time though, you should never overstep your boundaries as a resident and to always seek advice from those above you before going crazy with an idea. Of course not everyone will create the next life changing policy during their time as a resident, the important thing is to constantly keep your creativity flowing and see where it leads you. Now say it with me: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”



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