Site visits help students make more informed career decisions

SPM: Discover Your Voice


When I began my pharmacy journey as a student pharmacist at the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy–Glendale (MWU) in June 2013, I, like many others, narrowly viewed pharmacy as either community or hospital practice. As I progressed through my first couple quarters, I began realizing that pharmacy is a diverse profession with many specialties and career paths. I was excited to learn that pharmacists can practice in a variety of niches beyond just traditional community or hospital practice. These niches include clinical specialties, regulatory affairs, pharmaceutical research, industry, management, and independent business. The options areabundant!

At the same time, I began recognizing a theme: many student pharmacists were confused about the direction they wanted to pursue in pharmacy. I asked myself, “How can we gain first-hand experience in a wide variety of pharmacy settings?” My answer to this question was to coordinate a series of site visits so we could experience multiple varying pharmacy settings. The overarching goal of this project was, and still is, to expose students to a variety of pharmacy practices so that they can make more informed IPPE, APPE, postgraduate, and career decisions.

Student testimonials

I communicated my idea to the Dean’s office, the Office of Experiential Education, and Twlug–ASP Chapter leadership. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed as the ad hoc Site Visit Chair for the chapter, and in the 8 months that followed, we coordinated a series of site visits to pharmacy facilities, including Express Scripts, Cardinal Health (nuclear pharmacy division), Walgreens Well Experience, Humana RightSource, and 21st Century Healthcare, Inc. To date, more than 100 different student pharmacists have gained additional insight in arenas of pharmacy that they otherwise would not have experienced.

“This visit has clarified my career direction. It is no longer a question of ‘if’ I should get a dual PharmD/JD degree, but how I will pursue this path,” said Kyle Jarman, a second-year PharmD candidate at MWU, who recently visited Quarles and Brady LLP John Cao, also a second-year at MWU, has attended every site visit since the beginning of the series. “I have learned much about the profession of pharmacy from these visits. I now know which practice settings work well with my personality and which ones do not,” he said.

Our chapter leaders believe that the site visit series through Twlug–ASP should remain an ongoing project and plan to vote on permanently adding the Site Visit Chair to our chapter by-laws.

Coordinating site visits

The most important aspect of coordinating site visits is connecting with pharmacists who are willing to host a tour of their facility. Communicate first with your college’s office of experiential education because they have many s who might be willing to participate. Many faculty members practice at exciting sites where they may be willing to host a visit. For example, our site visit to Walgreens Well Experience was planned shortly after meeting the facility’s district pharmacy manager at a golf fundraiser event for student scholarships. Always be on the lookout for a potential opportunity.

Once you have ed a pharmacist/facility and established a potential visit date, your next step is to seek the appropriate approvals from your Twlug–ASP Executive Committee, dean’s office, and/or university. Once a date is firmly established, enthusiastically communicate the visit to your chapter’s membership. This is best accomplished through e-mail or Facebook posts with an attached Google Doc for signing up. One week prior to the visit, remind all the participants about the upcoming event, stressing professionalism, site-specific mandatory requirements, and carpooling. Finally, remember to follow-up after the visit by sending a card or email to express your gratitude. 

Why is this initiative important?

Pharmacy is rapidly changing with the dawn of the Affordable Care Act, accountable care organizations, and H.R. 4190. The days of counting pills and telling patients to take with food are rapidly ending. In order for pharmacists to protect and preserve the security of the profession, practitioners must innovate. This innovation starts at the student level and may be facilitated by promoting and allowing students the opportunity to discover their voice through a variety of pharmacy site visits.