Say yes to interprofessional practice

Student Pharmacist Magazine

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is a question you have been asked your whole life. Some people dread it. Some vary in their response, and others answer decidedly and with passion. As a student who strives to help others, you have taken the first step in answering this complex question: you want to be a pharmacist! The next step, deciding what area of pharmacy you want to practice in, is the one that can prove to be difficult.

Career epiphany

I stumbled upon my passion one afternoon during the spring semester of my first year of pharmacy school. I was sitting in class listening to a lecture about ambulatory care pharmacy and it was like a light bulb went off. I had discovered my future career. It was like a moment on Say Yes to the Dress where a bride finds her dream wedding dress. Although I wasn’t crying in front of a mirror, I just knew primary care was “The One!” I immediately arranged to spend time during my summer break shadowing my professor in her family medicine practice.

The more I learned about family medicine, the more I fell in love. There was just one snag in my plan: almost everyone I talked to had never heard of pharmacists working in a family medicine practice. The common response was, “You mean you will have a pharmacy right next to the physician’s office? Well that will make it easier for me to get my prescriptions!” I quickly realized that maybe my dream career wasn’t going to be as easily attainable as I had hoped, so I began to search for a solution to my problem.

Developing relationships

Students from the ETSU Interprofessional Education
Program at their capstone event.

Luckily for me, it came a few months later in the form of the East Tennessee State University Interprofessional Education Program. This innovative program allowed me to network and collaborate with other health care students, including medicine, nursing, public health, and many more. I built lasting relationships with students from other disciplines whom otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to interact with.

The experience enabled me to learn about other health care professions and what they can offer to the health care team, all while teaching them about the role of pharmacists. I came to understand that educating each other and building trust and respect is the first step to ensuring that pharmacists can do what we do best in our chosen field. By forming these interprofessional relationships early in our education, we form stronger teams built on trust, respect, and a common goal of quality patient care. We must reach out and work with our fellow health care professional students to establish these bonds.

In January 2014, I was honored to represent student pharmacists at the Primary Care Interprofessional Leadership Institute hosted by the American Medical Student Association and the Student Osteopathic Medical Association. In an intimate group of future physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and public health workers, we explored the changes that must be made to improve primary care and the health care system. Through this discussion, we shared our thoughts on the role of each profession in the future of primary care.

Attendees were fortunate to hear from Acting Surgeon General RADM Boris D. Lushniak, MD, who expressed his adamant support for the pharmacist’s role as part of the health care team. We learned about new and creative approaches to primary care and how to use resources and work together to create top-notch patient care. Most importantly, I created lasting relationships with student leaders from other professions.

Find your passion

When I started pharmacy school, I was a quiet, shy, hardworking student who didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up. Now, through my exploration of interprofessional experiences, I have found the perfect combination of direct patient care and interprofessional collaboration to maintain my passion for the profession, its goals, and patients.

I encourage you to say “yes!” to interprofessional practice, but most importantly, to say “yes!” to your passion. Finding my passion emboldened me to step out of my comfort zone, encouraged me to make my voice heard, and has driven me to actively work for my profession. No matter what it is, find your passion, and you can change the world—or at least the world of your patients.