Friday, November 11, 2011

Residency Search ~ part 1

Posted by Jenna at Friday, November 11, 2011

Midyear is just 3 weeks away .. well CRAP, where did time go?! Despite all of the research I did this summer, I've been stressing over what to do. I wanted to attempt to put into words the internal struggle that I've been experiencing (which will come in the second post) as well as offer some advice on starting the search for a residency. 

Those that know me know that there are 2 ways to instantly put a smile on my face and distract me from whatever I was doing: golden retrievers & babies. 

Adorable! Now where was I?!

So, peds has been my thing since day 1 of pharmacy school. My first two years of pharmacy school, I shadowed a lot of pharmacists, both on the adult & peds side. I highly recommend this - almost all of the pharmacists are open to it and it's really great exposure. Starting last year, I began to look into different residency options. As my classmates who are looking into residencies can attest to, it's an overwhelming process. There are so many programs and so many things to compare, it's hard to know where to even start. Well, the best place to start is somewhere! Real profound, I know. 

So where did I start? I decided that I'm not going to geographically limit myself because I felt like this would be cheating myself out of possibly great programs and great people. I also decided that I'm not going to base my decision on anyone else, meaning I'm not going to stay in Michigan just because my boyfriend is here. In my opinion, this is a decision that I have to be selfish about. Not everyone would agree with this and there are certainly situations and circumstances where this isn't feasible. But this is the decision that works best for me and my life circumstances. 

After making this decision, I just started from the beginning (i.e. Alabama). I could've started from the end (i.e. Wyoming) but I decided that it's much easier to scroll down a page than up it. I went to ASHP's residency directory and just started to browse around. As I scrolled down through the states, there were certainly states I skipped right over because I couldn't imagine living there. I think you have to be honest with yourself .. some people will say 'It's just a year, you can do anything for a year.' I think that's partially true but a year is also a long time to be miserable so I ignored a few states where I just couldn't imagine living for a year.

Ordinarily I would've said to decide what you want prior to starting to search through programs. However, there are so many programs with so many things to compare. For me anyway, I didn't have any 'specifics' of what I actually wanted in a program, other than a hospital that had some pediatric opportunities. So I decided to just start looking. Some programs have more informative sites than others, so by finding programs with a lot of information, I started to get exposed to what looked interesting and what didn't. In my head, I started to formulate a list of 'things' that either were important to me or things that I would need to compare amongst places. One word of advice - write these down! For some reason I didn't and I could kick myself for it. I can't tell you how many times I've been to the same program's website .. because other than a huge word document, I didn't have a way to compare things. Literally, about two weeks ago, I started a spreadsheet so that I could have 'criteria' to compare amongst places. It looks something like this and still needs a lot of work, both with filling in the information and adding criteria to compare.

I still don't have all of my 'criteria' listed because I didn't have a running list of what I wanted to compare so I end up thinking of new things then having to go back through to update that information for each program! 

Utilize your resources. Ask your professors/mentors for their opinions on specific programs. This will naturally lend itself to them letting you know if they know anyone there because let's face it, connections get you places. It's important to consider their opinions but you also have to keep in mind that things may have changed since they last knew about the program. Another important thing to remember is that pharmacy is more advanced in some areas compared to others. The midwest and pockets throughout the rest of the country are 'known' for their pharmacy practice. Just because an institution is well known for their medicine doesn't mean their pharmacy practice is 'up to par.' 

I think that's enough for 1 post. Hopefully some of my suggestions help, to recap: 
#1. Where are you looking? Are you geographically limiting yourself?
#2a. Start from the beginning and just explore a variety of programs.
#2b. Start to identify what you're looking for and ways that programs differ (staffing, flexibility, etc) so that you have a method to compare them. Identify 'must have' criteria and 'nice to have' criteria.
#3. Utilize your professors for their opinion on certain programs.
#4. Keep in mind that just because an institution has great medicine doesn't always mean they have great pharmacy. 

1 comment:

Eric Zhao said...

Jenna, this is great post for students thinking about pursuing a residency. Thanks for sharing your experience!