How time flies – this is my last week here as a virtual ASHP summer intern! I come to you today with my final intern blog and reflections. This summer, I am thankful to have worked on many initiatives that impact students, pharmacists, and patients, or simply guide us on the historical journey through pharmacy. I was involved with advocacy and policy, student society engagement, drug research, and discussions stemming from pharmacy’s most influential leaders and Harvey A.K. Whitney recipients. From these experiences, I have gained invaluable skills of prioritization of tasks, time management, and consistent correspondence to ensure expectations are met. I have also gained a few book recommendations from staff members, including Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., which I can’t wait to get started on. While I could spend my time talking about these organizational skills, I want to focus on the wisdom I have acquired from the various staff members I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from. I would sum up these pearls to 1) presence, 2) nimbleness, and 3) steadfastness – three skills I can continue to improve upon as I move forward in my personal and professional journey.
Various preceptors of mine have emphasized the value of taking ownership, assessing information thoroughly, and being your authentic self – all three of these come together to strengthen your presence in your personal and professional life. For taking ownership, that means checking in frequently with your preceptors and mentors to ask questions about your assignments, like “Am I meeting the expectations, and if not, how I can I improve?”, “May I show you a few ideas I think would add to this initiative?”, and “What else can I do as we move forward with this?”. These check-ins show that you care about what you are working on and are putting in the work necessary to exceed expectations.
For relaying information, don’t just repeat back what you heard without fully understanding it. If you are the leader of an initiative and it’s your job to report on your progress and planning, ensure you thoroughly understand what you are speaking about. Be able to assess information for yourself. This entails understanding both the successes and shortcomings of your projects and explaining the reasons behind decisions, so that in the case that you respond to colleague concerns, you can do so with full understanding and conviction in your explanation. Moving forward, you can then work to overcome obstacles in your work.
For establishing trust, be your authentic self! Being yourself doesn’t mean that you sacrifice professionalism – rather, the human, relatable side of you can help you establish trust with your patients and colleagues, ultimately, improving patient care.
So that sums up the first pearl. Establish your personal and professional presence in your workplace – take ownership of your work, assess information for yourself, and be your authentic self.
Bet you’ve never heard this one before, but pharmacy is a small world. You can take so many avenues in this field – from cardiology, toxicology, general inpatient, informatics, to association management, and more. Lots of staff members have told me how important it is to be open to new opportunities; in other words, look at opportunities with your “brights” on. Don’t be afraid to pivot if you find an opportunity that aligns perfectly with your skills and interests while you’re currently on another track.
How do you figure out what you want to pursue? Find a mentor and talk to those in fields you want to go into. Arrange shadowing and rotations that pertain to your passions in pharmacy. To find out what you love, sometimes you need to find out what you don’t like. And when you’re undergoing your education and training, continue to ask how you can help your preceptors and mentors and be willing to take on new opportunities. Find where your skills meet an unmet need, and pursue that path. You never know where your pharmacy journey will take you.
Steadfastness. What exactly do I mean by this? Depending on our pharmacy programs, many of us complete undergrad for two to four years, and then professional school for four more years, then residencies or fellowships for one to two years (all depending on your programs), and more continuing education. While it is also important to celebrate short-term wins from time to time to keep us moving forward, a career in pharmacy is a long-term investment of our time and effort. It’s a labor of love for the future patients we want to impact someday, and it requires steadfastness – diligence, faith in our ourselves and others – to do so.
Steadfastness also means we don’t just mask pain or what makes us uncomfortable; we listen to what our shortcomings tell us to improve. For example, if my shins hurt when I run, how can I improve my muscle strength or running form? If I performed poorly on an exam, in what areas can I improve my preparation or manage my anxiety? If I had a less than optimal patient or interprofessional encounter, how can I better my understanding for my future practice?
Finally, steadfastness means that we find common ground as we work to increase pharmacist visibility to improve patient outcomes. In health care, our common ground is often the patient’s well-being; we want the best possible health outcomes for the patient. So, for interprofessional collaboration, it is vital to learn others’ communication styles, celebrate diversity of all individuals, and promote a healthy work environment where colleagues value each other’s work and build each other up. All of this will continue a positive cycle and secure our main goal as healthcare professionals: the well-being of the patient.
If all of these pearls taught me one thing, it was learning how to learn. I learned how to clarify ambiguous initiatives, prioritize tasks, manage my time, and negotiate deadlines. I learned how I can establish presence, be nimble, and be steadfast in my work. And I learned, from the advice of my preceptors, to cultivate a growth mindset (which reminds me – I have to finish that fascinating Mindset book I was recommended before the fall semester starts!). From every experience, I know there is always something I can take away – this is learning how to learn.
I want to thank my co-intern and all of the members of the ASHP staff for an incredible virtual internship experience, and I look forward to applying these pearls to strengthen my relationships with my colleagues, advance the profession, and impact the lives of patients in my future practice.
ASHP Summer Intern 2020
Pharm.D. Candidate, Class of 2023
Purdue University College of Pharmacy