If you’re not part of the healthcare world, you may not know that this past week was historic for many, in that it was…match week.
If you’re not familiar, it’s the week when those graduating from pharmacy and/or medical schools find out if they “matched” to a residency after graduation or not. A residency allegedly speeds up your training, in that you’re gaining up to 3 years’ of clinical training crammed into one. (‘Allegedly’ – I don’t know if I personally buy that…).
While I will reserve my own opinion of the process and the clinical residency itself, what really disturbed me yesterday was the pharmacy matches…or lack thereof. You can see the data at my faceplace page – but basically over 1900 students did not match into residencies this year.
The problem with this is many fold. First, many pharmacy school professors love to extol that having a residency straight out of school is the “best” thing one can do for her career. (And the majority of them extol this, because that’s what they did. I’m here to gladly trumpet the fact that the world has changed – radically.)
So, when professors set a clinical residency as the gold standard, but there aren’t enough residencies to go around, pharmacy schools are basically setting some students up for failure. This is not a good precedent to set, especially at the launch of one’s career. (And yes, I’m a professional failure artist myself, but getting students to fail at launch is probably not the best place for them to learn that very hard lesson.)
Regardless of the lack of residencies and the allegations of it speeding up one’s education, if you’re in that pack of 1921 students who did not match yesterday, here are some humble suggestions on what to do next.
1. Don’t panic. Consider yourself LUCKY you didn’t match. I’ve heard stories of students working CRAZY hours as a resident, and while their personal education might be sped up for a year to three years, they also worked double or triple the amount of time that they should have…. I personally like my profession, but I went into pharmacy so I didn’t have to do it 24/7/365. Otherwise, I would have gone to medical school. So, take the rejection as a WIN for yourself and your sanity for the next 1-2 years.
2. Go work for a year. I joked that I did a residency at the school of hard knocks – AKA, working in the real world as a pharmacy manager (PIC) right out of school. Retail pharmacy is an equally solid training ground for you. It will also help you pay the bills and keep your eyes out for work that you may want to do for the long haul. Many who did not match actually ended up in retail and are still there, because they LIKE it. True, it’s not for everyone, but it is for some. It will also teach you how to manage relationships with your patients, patience, customer service, and making really tough calls sometimes on trusting your gut.
3. While working, look at late fellowships or next cycle’s fellowships and/or residencies. Fellowships aren’t typically in hospitals. Some focus on research, some on industry, some on managed care, and even focus on consulting. If you’ve never really felt in your heart that clinical in a hospital was your cup of tea, but you wanted to try something different, look at fellowships. You can also work, and take a day or two off and head to AMCP’s Nexus in the fall, where many residencies and fellowships in managed care hang out.
Realize, however, that you’ll most likely go backwards in terms of your salary if you’re out in the working world but then want to try a residency or fellowship. That’s a hard cut to swallow, especially for students coming out with a lot of debt.
4. Consider furthering your education. Those who asked me already know this, but the first time I graduated from pharmacy school with a 5-year BS in pharmacy, I ran screaming from the building. I was done with school. However, since then, I’ve gone back a few times, and I NEVER went into debt when going back either. (Note: I always had a full time job in addition to part time post grad education and/or employers who helped me pay for it in part. I would never recommend going back to school full-time these days…the world has just become too volatile for that. Of course, if you’re independently wealthy and can afford it, rock on….)
A PharmD alone anymore really doesn’t cut it. As sad as it is to type this, PharmDs are now a dime a dozen. What separates you from the herd?
As I was just discussing this yesterday – consider the changes coming in pharmacy – and I’m talking RADICAL disruption that will occur in next 10-20 years. If, for example the rumors are true and a large online retailer is getting into the pharmacy business and begins delivering drugs by drone from a central location – what will that mean to pharmacy? If more vending machines are allowed on college campuses, in hospitals, and at major employer campuses for prescriptions, what will that mean to pharmacy? If employees don’t get healthcare insurance from their employers in the future….what will THAT mean to pharmacy? If telemedicine and telepharmacy are exploding, what education do you need around communication on a screen rather than face to face with patients? Think ahead. Because, if we don’t, we could miss opportunities, or worse…we could miss our profession.
There. No one wants to fail at the beginning of her career. However, as I’ve said here before and will continue to say–failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you. It can provide you windows and doors that you never even considered in the hallways of your career and life. And while I’m glad there are pharmacists who love working in the hospital, it doesn’t have to be for everyone, nor is it a ‘gold standard’ for a pharmacy career anymore. The leaders and true decision makers aren’t running around on floors recommending a dose for vancomycin (there’s an app for that now); they are looking further into the future and more broadly at healthcare and making change happen today.