Forging my own path in pharmacy

New Practitioner

During my third professional year of pharmacy school, I recall being in awe of one of my professors who stated she had yet to interview for a job. She created almost every position she had held since completing her residency. She stressed the importance of thinking outside of the box and understanding how to show the value of pharmacy services. Many of you may be starting a new chapter of your professional journey this summer or contemplating your future career.

Last summer, I was preparing to make the leap from pharmacy resident to practitioner. I was anxious due to the change in my professional status and because I was awaiting approval of my business proposal to become the first clinical pharmacy specialist in women’s health at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center.

Turning dream into reality

During my PGY2 residency in ambulatory care and education, I took my professor’s advice to heart, and met with the chief of pharmacy at my medical center. We discussed a personal interest of mine that could also further the mission of the pharmacy department by providing high-quality pharmacy services throughout the medical center.

I developed a strong interest in women’s health during my pharmacy school career and wanted to start spending time in the gynecology clinic to gain more knowledge and determine how to develop pharmacy services in this area. My chief and residency directors fully supported my idea because women’s health is a growing area within the VA on a national level.

To develop a rapport with the staff and determine the starting point for pharmacy services, I began spending one day each week in the gynecology clinic. The chief of gynecology and a nurse practitioner suggested I first start meeting with patients who were pregnant, interested in conception, or scheduled for surgery, to review medications and make interventions as needed. I eagerly met with these groups of patients and felt my confidence level exponentially grow as I gained more experience each week in clinic.

After I spent several months in the clinic, my two co-residents joined me in my quest to develop pharmacy services. I was extremely passionate about pharmacy in the area of women’s health and I desperately wanted to further the pharmacy services provided in the gynecology clinic.

Throughout the year, I collected data on the number of interventions my co-residents and I made and tracked the performance measures associated with the care of female patients. I used this information to prepare a written business plan that detailed the impact a women’s health clinical pharmacy specialist would have on the care of female veterans at my facility. This document served as my job application to remain at the VA after graduating from my residency program.

My champion

The business plan was not enough; I needed a physician champion who would advocate to members of my facility’s executive management team. The chief of gynecology was thrilled with the services provided in my clinic and proved to be my biggest advocate and supporter. He met with senior leadership to garner support for my business proposal. We were faced with several roadblocks along this journey. For example, I had to resubmit information pertaining to my business plan and ask for support from more health care providers within my facility. After months of waiting and 2 weeks after I completed my PGY2, my assistant chief of pharmacy notified me that my proposal had been accepted. I was ecstatic to obtain my first position post-residency.

Discover your passion

Since starting my new role as the clinical pharmacy specialist in women’s health, I expanded services to include management of contraception, menopausal symptoms, and urinary incontinence. Each day presents a new and exciting challenge for me as my knowledge base continues to expand. I have the pleasure of sharing my passion for women’s health with student pharmacists and pharmacy residents. Incorporating learners into my practice has allowed me to rapidly expand my services and further hone my teaching skills. As a new practitioner, I am constantly learning new concepts and increasing my knowledge when I work with students and residents.

It is truly an exciting time to be student pharmacists and pharmacists, and I encourage all of you to discover your passions and determine how to forge your own path in pharmacy. Allowing yourself to be creative, taking risks, and developing your professional network will help you forge your own path in pharmacy.