The Space In Between Chapters

The Space In Between Chapters

 

A few big things happened recently:

  1. I donated BINS of baby/toddler items
  2. My son received his first phone call from a friend “just to talk”
  3. The pharmacy profession is causing panic at the disco

A local church was accepting donations for clothes and toys and for the first time, I entered the corner of the basement and pushed aside the cobwebs of the attic looking for bins. I blame my restlessness, Marie Kondo, and my husband for this urge to purge. Opening those bins brought back a flood of memories – holding some outfits pushed all of my maternal buttons and holding some toys had me singing along to our favorite songs. You know it’s time for the stuff to go when your kids see the piles and say, “Yeah, I’m good with that.” It took me a long time to sort, feel, reminisce, and pack 10 boxes full of stuff. On donation day, I loaded the car and ran back to the house to grab the last box when my son says, “So-And-So is calling your phone tonight!” “Oh really! How did they get my number?” I ask. “From the school directory that was sent home,” he answers confidently. My first thought was wow, So-And-So is so resourceful! Wait, what are they going to talk about? The phone rings, he grabs it, and he runs in the other room. I look at my husband in disbelief and say, “What’s happening?”

There’s no time to discuss as I’ve got to make it to the church before 7:30pm. After I unload the boxes, I drive away slowly, as if the volunteers will call me back saying the infant tutu outfit is too cute and I must keep it. I roll down the windows and soak in the last few minutes of an almost perfect (i.e. rare) weather day in Chicago. The warm wind on the way to the church now felt cool against the tears coming down my cheeks – as I say goodbye to one chapter, filled with baby smells, cute outfits, and lots of firsts– and anxiously think about the next chapter – to be filled with phone calls, awkward moments, and lots of firsts. On that drive home, I think about feeling in between two phases of motherhood. The transition from single digit to double digit birthdays. The growth in the width of their shoulders, the length of their feet, and the breadth of their independence. I think of the coincidence of my son receiving his first phone call on the same night I’m letting go of his baby clothes. I believe that saved me from having a complete sob attack. After a few hot tears, I realized I have a big kid who needs me to clear my attic AND my perceptions of a little boy disguised in a big boy shell.

Of course this makes me think about work (we can’t help ourselves, right?). Feeling in between chapters is the best way to describe how I’ve felt in the past when I’ve changed clinics. Similar to baby clothes, I remember donating materials I no longer needed and being grateful for that experience while anxiously awaiting my next pharmacy home. Some of us are between jobs or fear we may be there soon. Some of us have outgrown current conditions yet nervous to make a career move. Some of us can’t imagine working anywhere else yet the current climate encourages one’s imagination. These transitional periods are so tough. We’re planners, after all, and the future needs us. But in what ways?

Our very own founder of pharmacistmomsgroup.com, Suzy Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS, explained the why behind her career switch. She said, “Having kids meant that my 90 minute commute wasn’t an option anymore and I needed to find a better fit for the “new” me. I loved what I was doing but I knew that my children and family needed me more so I resigned from my “dream” job as an associate dean and had to find myself once again.”

 

I find it interesting that some events in life force us to move on to the next chapter, whether we’re ready or not. The panic in pharmacy is widespread and impactful decisions are made every day. Feeling so out of control, how do we navigate this space as working moms? I reached out to my friend, Mary Heidkamp, PhD and Executive Coach,* to help answer this really easy (not) question. She put the power in our hands. And she gets right to it: “You don’t have to save your organization. That’s not on you. If you’re in a role that’s not professionally satisfying, you have two choices: stay or start looking- and there’s reasons to do either. As moms with high-level careers, we desire fulfilling careers AND hands-on motherhood. Maybe your job is not fulfilling but it’s suiting your family well at the moment. Maybe it offers flexibility, hours that work well, and benefits you need. Maybe the craving for more satisfying work weighs more than that, so you start looking. YOU have the choice.”

Suzy opened up about her own transitions between jobs. “I was scared. I didn’t even know where to start. I spent my entire career in Chicago and didn’t know anyone on the east coast and had little connections. I loved my job but I knew that moving 800 miles away was going to force me to look for a new job. I still needed to pass my boards for a new state; the hardest part was believing I could take an exam almost 10 years later. It wasn’t easy.”

Here’s the superheroic plan: Let’s make a pack not to rush through transitions. If we take a step back and reflect on how far we’ve come, at home or work, maybe we can ease into the next chapter with more gratitude and grace. Let’s give ourselves time (in my case: years) to be ready to say goodbye to things that are just things. Let’s give ourselves mental space to process everything that’s going on at work.  Let’s give ourselves credit when we actually DO let go of things we don’t need and let go of momentum that can’t change. When we find ourselves in the spaces in between chapters, let’s just breathe and give ourselves a moment to cogitate over what’s really important at the intersection of home and work.

Suzy adds, “What I learned is change is good. It has helped me to grow. Helped me become a better pharmacist. It helped me make new friends. New connections. I am now comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

* http://dynamic-insights.com/

 

94 Seconds – The Smallest Things Can Make The Biggest Impact

By Karen Berger, PharmD

On Friday after school, my 10-year old had an expander put in, as the beginning of her teeth straightening process. The orthodontist has a great bedside manner, and was very patient with my daughter, Dena. She took her time and really wanted Dena to get as comfortable as she could be under the circumstances. Our appointment was at 3:30 pm and we left around 4:45 – we definitely did not feel rushed.

After dinner, around 7:30pm, I was sitting by my phone when it rang. Who is calling me? I thought, surprised. Everyone texts me! Lo and behold, it was the orthodontist, calling to see how Dena was doing in the last few hours since we left the office. We chatted briefly – I didn’t want to keep her long, especially on a Friday night. She asked a few questions and offered some advice. When we hung up, I looked at the phone. The conversation only took 94 seconds. 94 seconds!!

 

Why did I notice this? Because it only took 94 seconds to make an amazing impression on us. It is so rare that a healthcare provider of any kind makes after hours calls to check on patients. But that 94 seconds really made a difference to me. I saw this orthodontist as someone who cared and went the extra mile for her patients and their families.

 

Then, as with many other things, I thought about how this could apply to pharmacy. I certainly know most of us don’t have any extra time to do anything, but I think we can all find 94 seconds here and there to check in on a patient that may need a little extra attention. Throughout your days, and your interactions with patients, you’ll most certainly notice a few patients that have issues you could follow up on with a quick phone call. Maybe someone is looking a little down, and you could be the quick call that turns that patient’s day around.

 

Forget the metrics, let the reds go redder! Take just a minute or two here and there, and go that extra mile. We are all in this because we want to help people. Let’s all take a brief moment as often as we can, to make a little difference in our patients’ lives. You never know when your quick phone call could brighten someone’s day – the smallest things can make the biggest impact.

Being a Mum as well as a pharmacy student

 

 

 

Being a Mum as well as a pharmacy student

By:

Nour Morjan

I have been a university student for about 7 years, and this is my eighth. I became a mum while I was in my fourth year at the university. I changed my course twice, from Biotechnology engineering to Genetics and Molecular Biology to finally Pharmacy.

I started my MPharm course being a mum. As much as being a mum is wonderful and is a blessing that doesn’t make the struggle any easier.

Now I’m on my final year, I could say being a student is more than a full-time job for me and being a mum is a 24-hour job.

During my time at the university while being a mum, I lacked the support to help me overcome those difficulties and I had to make it on my own. Although, I had the full support of my husband, we both needed support and help in what we went through.

At the start, I thought it was just me going through all of that. I thought maybe as a mum, I was not capable of raising a child. The doubts took control over me, and I already have had depression and anxiety which was a separate issue for me that affected my life a lot.

There are some students in my course who are parents. As the course progressed, we started sharing the struggle we go through together. We talked about  how hard it is to juggle between house work, childcare, cooking and social life which seemed impossible.

I started to think that it wasn’t just me but all of us, students with children, are in the same boat struggling together without knowing anything about each other’s struggle.

A few months went by and then I came across Pharmacy Podcast Network on Instagram and through it I came across the lovely Pharmacist Suzanne Soliman from Chicago, USA. She is the founder of Pharmacist Moms as you already all know. I got inspired by her, so I tried looking online to find something similar in the UK which supports pharmacist mums, but I couldn’t. Instead I found how pharmacists can help new parents and mothers.

 

I contacted Suzanne and now we are going to work together to start a branch of Pharmacist Moms in the UK.

 

Very excited 🙂

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

 

On 3/6/19 my colleague and fellow pharmacist mom, Kathy Vest, PharmD, CDE, BCACP, and I met in a parking garage at 5:30am. With bellies full of coffee, pączkis, and butterflies, we drove 2.5 hours to Springfield, IL.  We were invited by the Illinois Pharmacists Association (IPhA)* to attend a committee hearing for HB 1442 (contraceptive prescribing bill) as ‘clinical experts.’  Yes, surreal! When you get this type of call, how could you say no? So I confirmed that my husband could take the kids to school, put on a blazer, and pushed my imposter syndrome aside.

In the 17 years I’ve lived in Illinois, I had never gone to Springfield. The day before, the nurse practitioner I work with said, “Good luck down there. It’s a one-horse kind of town.” I had never been to a committee hearing or even seen one on TV. The building is beautiful – if you are fan of architecture, Abraham Lincoln paintings, and marble columns for days, then check this place out. The committee hearing was in a small room with rows of chairs for the public, a small table with three seats for the presenters and 5 rows of tables with comfy chairs for the representatives. Each seat had a skinny black microphone on the table, with a push button to activate a green light alerting you, “It’s go time.” With ~30 lawyers and ~30 bystanders watching us, waiting for us to speak, my mind shuffled between ‘You know this stuff, it’s no sweat!’ and ‘How did I get here?’

I knew HB 1442 pretty well, as I participated in a couple of conference calls with the sponsor a year earlier. Since it was first introduced three years ago, Representative Michelle Mussman (with the help of IPhA) has been trying to get this bill passed. That morning she said to us, “It’s just been passed in the 10th state. We could have been 3rd.” Kathy and I been learning and conducting research on pharmacist prescribed contraception for the past few years. We know the pros and cons. We know some pharmacists are excited and some pharmacists are apprehensive. We knew clinical questions would come our way. We suspected the lack of an age limit in the bill would spark some debate. What we didn’t expect was for a woman’s age to the deal-breaker for so many voting representatives. Together with Rep. Mussman, the OBGYN physician to her left, and our IPhA representative, we explained that women of all ages are currently obtaining contraception – from their physician or online. If this bill is passed, a patient wouldn’t have to wait for a doctor’s appointment or a package to come in the mail. Rep. Mussman explained the potential negative medical and socioeconomic outcomes of an unplanned teen pregnancy. I’m happy to report that not one lawyer questioned a pharmacist’s ability to provide this service. At one point, a representative asked me, “So you are willing to take responsibility if you dispense the wrong/inappropriate medication?”  And I said, “Yes, just like I take that responsibility on a daily basis.”

The bill passed this committee hearing and is now on its way to the House floor! I felt like I did my duty – as a pharmacist and as a woman. I felt empowered that our voices matter. I felt American. I left thinking, why did it take me 17 years to drive to Springfield? I reached out to Laura Licari, PharmD, current president of IPhA, for her insight on this topic. She reassured me that advocacy at the state level was not always at the front of her mind (phew, I’m normal). She started her journey with IPhA when her mentor asked her to serve on the Board of Directors, which she wouldn’t have considered if not for that push (women helping women=love!). When I asked her what sparks advocacy, she told me, “When you realize that the Pharmacy Practice Act dictates your scope of practice, you also realize that every pharmacist has the power within them to advocate for change to that scope of practice through the legislative process.” When I ask her about a pharmacist’s limited time for advocacy, she admits its hard to keep up (I’m beginning to think Laura really gets me). She informed me that both IPhA and ICHP are monitoring over 6,000 proposed bills. She said, “If you feel like you don’t have the time or the expertise, make an investment with your membership. In doing so, your organization can sift through all those bills and alert you to the ones that are most relevant to your practice and profession; also you can build a diverse network of pharmacy professionals. Over time, just like me, you’ll learn about the legislative process and how you can affect change. Until then, your contribution helps both IL state associations attend meetings with legislators, organize Pharmacy Legislative Day, and monitor that long list of bills that can potentially help or harm our profession.”

My experience in Springfield made me think of how much advocacy we do DAILY as moms – for our families and ourselves. Phone calls to schools, networking on the playground, and negotiating who gets Mom’s laptop first are just a few examples. There have been times when I didn’t press the button on the skinny black microphone at home. There have been times when I CHOSE not to advocate for myself. Nervous to speak up, unsure how much it would help in the long run, and confused by the newness of motherhood – there have been silent times. Thankfully it didn’t take me 17 years to realize that in order to have MY needs and desires met, I needed to speak into the mic. I’ve hustled to obtain childcare when I need to exercise – even at 4:45am! I’ve explained to my kids how important my career is to my overall health – and their wellbeing. I’ve asked for alone time and tried not to let the guilt pull me back into the driveway.

I asked my colleague and friend, Kathy, who was with me in Springfield, if she thinks there are parallels between MOM and PHARM advocacy. She said, “A few things I’ve learned about being a Mom are that 1) I wear a lot of hats as a Mom and that can be challenging (house manager, school volunteer, basketball coach, etc), 2) there is no rule book for how to be a great Mom, 3) being a Mom often comes with feelings of vulnerability, and most important, 4) I am not alone in feeling like this!  Being a mom has shown me the importance of community and supporting each other since it can be one of the hardest, yet most wonderful aspects of our lives. Involvement with pharmacy organizations has been a great way to communicate my ideas, perspectives and experiences, as well as learn from those of other pharmacists.  And recently getting involved with legislative efforts has shown me that we all have the potential to contribute and how critical our voices are to help important causes to move forward!

Here’s the superheroic takeaway: Going to Springfield reminded me that in all aspects of our lives, there is a skinny black microphone with a button ready for you to push it. When the green light is on, well, you already know what to say.

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist (be.superheroic@gmail.com)

*Are you a pharmacist practicing in Illinois?  The Illinois Pharmacists Association is offering a 10% discount for new members, courtesy of Laura Licari. FYI: she’s only the 7th woman IPhA president since 1880! Use code PRES10 at www.ipha.org.

 

Upskill and Reskill

 

Upskill and Reskill

I have a lovely author friend who writes about how to succeed at work now and in the future. Recently we were discussing life and writing and her new book* and she casually said two words that made me put my food down: upskill and reskill. And now I’m wondering how I lived so long without this phrase in my life. She explained it so eloquently as I feverously took notes circa 1999. [Remember the ‘there’s no handout’ kind of writing? Ah, the pen cramps we would get. All the loose-leaf paper we would buy…memories]

She defined it as:

Upskill: Take your existing level of expertise and widen it.

Reskill: Learn something different.

I can’t stop thinking about how this applies to pharmacists. What additional skills interest you? What additional training have you been thinking about for a while? This venture may or may not directly impact your current work situation, but it may be a futuristic pursuit. There are pharmacist moms in this group who are doing this very thing and posting about it: completing a pharmacogenomics course, MTM training, joining a new professional organization, and studying for board certification. Learning new skills in new environments offers advantages such as networking and diversifying our talent base. The goal is to reinvent ourselves by upscaling and rescaling our foundation.

Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, CDE, FAPhA is currently CEO of SinfoníaRx®, running as a candidate for president-elect of APhA, AND a fellow pharmacist mom. I met her in person a few years ago and she is honestly one of the most down-to-earth people I have met in this field. So let’s talk upskill and reskill. She pursued a Masters in Public Health as a personal goal. She told me, “I noted that helping people one to one was really impactful but I wanted to impact population health by addressing system issues and policy to address the repeating problems that every patient would walk in with. So many times we feel like we have to accept a broken system instead of feeling empowered to change it.”

Another pharmacist mom, Mitzi Wasik, PharmD, FAMCP, FCCP, BCPS is currently Senior Director, Patient Safety and Quality at Aetna and current president of AMCP, reflected on how she navigated this as her career shifted. She started with anticoagulation, diabetes, and immunization certificates early in her career when she was heavily involved in direct patient care, and she then pursued BCPS certification in order to stay competitive in the market as an ambulatory care pharmacist. She notes that these credentials led to a higher salary after a job change. What’s she doing right now? She told me, “Right now I am getting my MBA which is helping me from a business acumen perspective.  My position is less clinical these days but I have to be able to walk and talk the business perspective of clinical programs to tie it all together.”

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have time to pursue any new skills or another degree. At the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is interact with more people. You may feel that new talents wouldn’t be valued by your current organization.

Here’s my hypothesis about this group: you value this profession more than numbers and money. You value yourself more than any metric that attempts to define you. You want to upskill and reskill, but you’re not sure how and when and what.

Here’s what I know about this group: We have an advantage. We are used to squeezing in really important tasks into tiny pockets of time. We practically invented multitasking. (And yes, we agree with the research – it doesn’t work well). We juggle more in one hour than most people do in a week. Ok, that seems magnified but whether it’s real or exaggerated – it impacts our mindset on whether we should add something else to our plate. Upskilling and reskilling will no doubt force adjustments to our already full schedules.

Here’s the superheroic plan: For moms with littles and moms with teens and moms with olders; for any moms who have less than zero minutes to devote to something new: use this information as a jumpstart to think about what’s next. Take care of your babies. Take care of yourself. But during your commute and while you’re waiting in line and when you’re up at 3am – think about what you would do to upskill and reskill your career. Keep thinking about it, let it marinate in your mind, and remember Sandra Leal’s words of wisdom: “Don’t put things off. There will never be a better time to invest in yourself than now and your family will be better for it.”

Brooke Griffin

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

*www.alexandralevit.com

An angry customer shot me #silentnomore

 

According to OSHA “between 2011-2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540-25,630 annually with 70-74% occurring in healthcare and social service settings. For healthcare workers assaults account for 10-11% of workplace injury versus 3% of all private sector employees.” This is UNACCEPTABLE and as the founder of Pharmacist Moms, I will be #silentnomore. Yesterday a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician were SHOT and are currently in the hospital. As health care providers, we must demand from our leadership more protocols and zero tolerance for any form of violence. This is not new to healthcare and we need to bring light to this situation. My thoughts and prayers for the victims and pharmacy staff and the patients of the pharmacy. Pharmacists play a unique role in healthcare and are caregivers and oftentimes similar to other healthcare providers have a difficult time taking legal action against patients, but we should. We will be #silentnomore

 

 

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist


Dr. Brooke Griffin

Hey Mamas! Do you ever feel the push and pull of motherhood and work thrusting you around like you’re standing in a wave pool? Do you ever wonder how you’re able to juggle so many balls in the air, then watch a ball (or two or three) drop, and somehow manage to bounce back? Do you ever waver between feeling inept and superheroic? Same here.

Hi, I’m Brooke! I’m a pharmacist. I’m a mom. I’ve worked full-time, part-time, and job share. I’ve worked in community pharmacy, ambulatory care, hospital-based clinics, patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, and last but not least academia. Besides being a pharmacist mom, some other things I love: Celebrating our differences! Asking bold questions! Sports! Life and all its imperfections! Writing! Ice Cream! Using explanation points!

Have you ever been told that trying to juggle a career with being a hands-on mom would be challenging? I remember thinking, “Challenge Accepted!” as I don’t like to be pushed around (except by small children, but you probably already guessed that). I certainly don’t have all of this figured out, but I’ve been soaking in guidance and advice from talented and superheroic moms with careers, including my own mama. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly reevaluating my experience. The growing pains are filled with joy, sacrifice, and blurred lines. Oh, and stretch marks.
Each month I’ll be posting riveting, groundbreaking, and superfunny blogs about mom stuff and work stuff and this-is-how-we’re-killing-it stuff. Ok, ok; you’Il be the judge of funny. I’ll be using this space to interview pharmacist moms (and a few non-pharmacist moms – hey, Mom!) and my hope is to ask the Yodas of our world for some wisdom. I believe that all of the million little imperfect pieces of our lives actually create a wild yet beautiful mosaic. I tell my children that this is my gift to them and then they ask for screen time instead. As we muscle our way through the days and those unforgettable nights, let’s talk about the good, the bad, the gritty, and the creative ways we work.

As I get to know you and you get to know me, let’s survive together Oregon Trail style, without the cholera but probably with the exhaustion. I don’t have work-life balance – that scale broke a long time ago. But I’ve got a vision for a network of pharmacist moms who know that sometimes, just getting through the day can feel pretty damn superheroic. Let’s celebrate that.

Brooke
Be.superheroic@gmail.com

A Career Beyond the Counter:

A Career Beyond the Counter:

My experience transitioning from retail pharmacy to the corporate world

 

By Ursula Chizhik VP of Quality and Regulatory Affairs, FLAVORx

 

I was a retail pharmacist for 11 years before joining the FLAVORx team.  Never in my life did I envision myself working in a corporate setting, where I would be sitting in my very own office, wearing a nice outfit with high heel shoes, taking a lunch break, and working less than 12 hours standing on my feet! I was so used to a lab coat, my comfortable Clarks clogs, eating quickly while standing, and arriving and leaving the pharmacy when it was dark outside- That’s simply what I thought the life of a retail pharmacist was destined to be.  But that all changed when I called FLAVORx out of the blue and asked if they needed a pharmacist on staff.

There was no job posting, only my desire to seek out a new opportunity and my familiarity with the company name, since I used to flavor prescriptions when I was a pharmacist. I was ready for a change and while I didn’t know exactly what I had to offer to FLAVORx, I knew I was a dedicated pharmacist with a lot of experience and, surely, I could bring something valuable to the table.

Fast forward 7 years and I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  I love my job and the fact that I can integrate my many years of practical pharmacy experience to bring an element of “real world pharmacy” to the company I work for and the people I work with.  I know what it’s like to be a pharmacy student.  I have experienced the peaks and valleys of being a pharmacist behind the counter.  I tap into those experiences every day as we discuss effective ways to reach out to pharmacy students, encourage technicians, and connect with pharmacists and other health care providers.

Working for a small business, I feel especially valued and valuable for the credentials I’ve earned and the experiences I’ve gained, which is tremendously rewarding and a big difference from some of the retail pharmacy jobs I held.

As some of you may be considering a career move at some point in your future, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that I learned after getting out from behind the counter:

Time management-

This was probably the biggest adjustment for me during my transition from retail pharmacist to business person.  In the pharmacy setting, everything has a sense of urgency. We need to get prescriptions ready quickly and patients out the door as soon as possible, if we want to keep customers happy. This fast pace was simply an integral part of the job.  On the contrary, in the office setting, I feel like you are constantly waiting for someone to respond to an email, a unanimous decision to be made, a delivery to arrive, a colleague to do their job.  This waiting game is quite different from the constant scrambling and running around at the pharmacy, but most of the time this is a welcome change.

Meetings-

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! Business people like to spend a lot of time talking about ideas- collaborating or brainstorming as they call it. While in theory it seems like a great idea to get a group of bright people in a room to determine the next big thing for your company, the next direction, the next initiative, there is generally more discussion than decision-making!  Although if you have a meeting that runs into lunchtime, there will likely be a free food!

Personalities-

Just like in every work environment, you must learn to deal with many different personalities. Although, behind the counter you are typically dealing with people of the same educational background- all pharmacists and technicians who speak the pharmacy language. In a business setting, you are dealing with a variety of people from broad educational backgrounds that do not speak the same language.  At any given moment, you may find yourself working with the sales team, the marketing team, the finance team, the engineering team, and maybe even the CEO. Needless to say, every individual or team has their own perspective and priorities, which don’t always align. I’ve learned that you can’t always make everyone happy, so its best to stay in your lane, but remain open minded and flexible.

My role at FLAVORx has evolved over the years, and with every passing year, I have taken on more responsibilities and have truly enjoyed the opportunity to create such a unique, flexible, and rewarding job that works for me and my family. Best of all, working at a company like FLAVORx allows me to still be part of the pharmacy world, even though I am no longer in a traditional pharmacy setting. If anyone is considering a career beyond the pharmacy counter, I would be more than happy to give you some advice. Feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

A Day In the Life of an Academic Pharmacist

A Day In the Life of an Academic Pharmacist

I recall sitting in a therapeutics lecture as a pharmacy student thinking my professor had it easy.  She showed up to lecture for a few hours each week, a handful of weeks each year—she could spend the rest of her time preparing lectures. I honestly thought that was all she did until I completed an APPE rotation with her and realized she had a practice site with responsibilities to the site, committee work, research, service, student mentoring and teaching outside of the College of Pharmacy.

 

She stayed busy, but seemed fulfilled by her career and autonomy. This experience influenced my decision to pursue academia as a career after I completed my PGY1/PGY2 Pharmacotherapy residency training. I stayed with Idaho State University in Pocatello, taking a clinical assistant professor position with dual appointments in the Department of Family Medicine and the College of Pharmacy.

 

My position is somewhat of a unicorn in the academia world because I primarily train physician and pharmacy residents on our inpatient medicine service as opposed to focused teaching of pharmacy students. Though residents are my main learners, I do take students on APPE rotations, facilitate labs, case studies and small group discussions and lecture to other learners across campus.

 

Here’s a glimpse into my typical day:

 

5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Let’s be honest, I’ll snooze until at least 6:00. Shower, get dressed, do my hair (top knot or pony) and makeup. Dry shampoo is my best friend! Husband leaves for work around 6:15 today. He’s a physician assistant in orthopedic surgery, so his surgery days are my solo mornings.

 

6:40 am: Eat breakfast and get the girls (3 year-old and 9 month-old) up and dressed. Pack my bags—pump bag, computer bag, lunch bag, diapers and wipes for the baby and swimsuit and towel for the 3 year old’s water day. It’s a miracle I don’t forget anything.

 

7:30 am: Leave the house. My girls go to two different daycare facilities because of age restrictions. Can’t wait until the baby is one! Drop-offs go smoothly so I make it to work by 8 am.

 

8:00 am – 9:15 am: Spend an hour answering emails—So. Many. Emails!  Questions from a speaker for the Idaho Society of Health-System Pharmacist’s Fall Conference (I’m the Education Chair), set up an appointment with my research student, and then address a conflict with the residents schedules. Finally, I take a few minutes to update my ever-expanding to-do list. Sometimes I wish I could start all over with a brand-new email address. And share it selectively.

 

9:15 am: Pump break—I’m lucky enough to have a designated room with a comfy chair, a sink to clean my supplies and freezer to store the loot.

 

9:30 am: Drive to the hospital to precept patient care plans with the pharmacy resident.

 

9:40 am: Take the stairs to the 4th floor—have to fit exercise in somewhere!

 

9:45 am: Catch my breath enough to precept patients with the PGY1 resident. He presents a brief subjective and objective history followed by assessment and plan for relevant medication related problems. We discuss his plan for the most critical patients. I ask questions and assign readings.

 

10:30 am: Rounds start (mostly) on time today. I make a point to listen closely and review patient charts as we go because—brand new medical interns. Need I say more? Although I start to wonder if it’s the third-year medical residents I need to worry about after this interaction:

 

Dr. U (R3): “Problem number one sepsis, secondary to cellulitis of the leg. Patient also has a hematoma of the same leg from a recent fall.”

 

Me: “What is your plan for the patients’ antibiotics? She currently has daptomycin and vancomycin ordered.”

 

Dr. U (R3): **Looking lost** “Uhhhhh”

 

Me: “Would you like to continue both the vancomycin and the daptomycin?”

 

Me: *in my mind* Please say no, please say no, please sa—

 

Dr. U: “Yes! Because it will be awhile before the vancomycin level is therapeutic so I’d like to make sure patient is covered with the daptomycin in the meantime.”

 

Me: *long blink* “Okaaaay. Well, let’s pause there for a second. Help me understand this infection a little better.”

 

I fire off questions about the patient such as…”She has a cellulitis? How big is the cellulitis? Do you suspect infection in the proximal hematoma—like an abscess? No? Okay, do you think this isn’t a strep cellulitis? How’s her renal function? Do you suspect MRSA?”

 

Me: “Okay, so you don’t have any reason to believe this is MRSA. What regimen would you send this patient home on, maybe that will help us narrow our coverage?”

 

Dr. U (R3)- “Well I’d just keep the IV vanco and continue oral vanco when she goes home.”

 

Me: *loooooong blink* try not to laugh, yell or cry. “Okay, let’s talk about that for a minute…”

 

11:20 am: We pause rounds so my PGY1 resident can teach the team about anticoagulation—his first team teaching moment of the residency year. The sympathy nerves get to me and I spend the first 30 seconds freaking out for him—totally unwarranted because he nails it. Relevant information and an engaging teaching style—tough skills to teach. I almost cry happy tears. The residency year just got a lot easier!

 

11:26 am: Phone vibrates with this message from our attending physician—“Your resident is a fantastic teacher!

 

11:40 am- Leave rounds a little early to swing by daycare and nurse the baby before her nap. So glad I live and work in a 10-minute radius.

 

12:05 pm- Head back to my office on campus. I’m teaching at the Noon Conference—Prescribing Pearls—to the family medicine residents today. I target my content towards our new family medicine interns. Many have never written a prescription…or learned how to write one in medical school, for that matter. To put it kindly—they’re clueless. I cover the basics of prescription writing—legal requirements versus good practice, ISMP abbreviations to avoid, etc. I also share prescribing tips like asking about refills at each appointment, canceling old prescriptions with the pharmacy, and including an indication as part of the sig.

 

I love giving this didactic every year. I get to teach them the basics of the pharmacy world and feel like a genius because it’s all “new” to them. Conversation surrounding our last topic of the hour—legal and ethical considerations of prescribing for self, family and friends—gets heated. This is my first year including this subject and I’m shocked by some of the reactions. When the presentation is over, I take notes on how it went and changes needed for next year.

 

1:15 pm: Eat a quick lunch—leftover burrito bowls from dinner the night before—while I answer a few more emails.

 

1:30 pm: Meet with a P3 pharmacy student doing a research elective with me. We plan to survey community health workers about how they help with medications and their training to do so. This student is a Rockstar. She owns her project. I spend the hour helping her edit the survey. We make a few changes to our Institutional Review Board form before submitting.

 

2:30 pm: Try to tackle a few items on the to-do list. I make it through what feels like never-ending resident evaluations in PharmAcademic, update my lecture for the following week, and coordinate with speakers for the ISHP Fall Meeting.

 

3:30 pm: Another pump break.

 

3:50 pm: Back to work on the to-do list.

 

4:10 pm: One of my PGY2 Pharmacotherapy residents drops by to discuss a patient case. The patient was bridged with enoxaparin perioperatively and just saw her surgeon complaining of calf pain.  My poor resident is devastated that the patient may have a clot. Another preceptor and I review the course of therapy with the resident and determine there was nothing that should’ve been done differently. We explain that medicine isn’t foolproof, secondary prevention isn’t guaranteed and sometimes the worst outcome happens even when we do everything correctly.

 

4:40 pm: Engage in a philosophical discussion on the future of the pharmacy with my office mate—an almost daily occurrence for us. We ponder the effects of Amazon’s purchase of Pillpack on community pharmacy, whether I should encourage or discourage my brother from pursuing pharmacy, and if provider status is really necessary (sacrilege, I know!).

 

5:00 pm: Leave to get the girls from daycare. I pick up the 3 year old first. I’ve inadvertently trained her to ask “what you brought me?” when I pick her up every day, and today is no different. I let her choose a fruit leather flavor and she asks me to open it, which I do. She cries because I didn’t open it the “right way like daddy does it”. It’s a no-win situation.

 

5:30 pm: Arrive at home to an apron-clad husband pulling salmon off the Traeger. Dinner is ready! I love it when he beats me home.

 

6:30 pm: Clean up dinner, bathe the babes, jammies, prayers and bedtime stories. Husband takes the three year-old while I put the baby to sleep.

 

7:30 pm: Crack open the email from our ASHP Accreditation Site Surveyor and get to work on collecting documents for our upcoming site visit. I try not to work at home when I can help it. I’m successful most nights—tonight isn’t one of them.

 

9:00 pm: Think about exercising, but go for a bowl of sherbet instead. Veg on the couch reading a book.

 

10:00 pm: Get ready for bed and hit the hay so I can do it all over again tomorrow!

 

I’ve discovered many hidden rewards in teaching—and encountered so many challenges. Some days I feel like a well-paid babysitter. I hate those days! Some days seeing my learners succeed makes me proud enough to share their success with the mailman. I love those days! Most days fall somewhere in between. Each one varies—different learners, different responsibilities, different challenges and different successes. And that’s why I love it!

 

 

Kasidy McKay, PharmD, BCPS

Clinical Assistant Professor

Idaho State University

mckakasi@isu.edu

 

Happy Women Pharmacist Day! #womenpharmacistday

 

In 2013, Harvard Economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz published a paper which showed that the pharmacy profession was one of the few healthcare professions to have an equal representation of men and women. Gardner and Stowe reported that in 1992-93, female pharmacists comprised only 26% of faculty at pharmacy schools. Today women make up the majority of faculty, students and practicing pharmacists.  Remember that scene in the movie “‘Dead Poets Society’ where Robin Williams shows the students photos of past graduates from decades earlier. It reminded me when I was a student, walking down the halls of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy and seeing the rows and rows of photographs of UIC alumni who had once been in my shoes. But unlike the students in the movie, I couldn’t see myself in all of the photos specifically because the early ones were mostly men. Things have certainly changed.

 

October 12, 2018 will be the first time we celebrate and recognize #WomenPharmacistDay (WPD).  WPD is about honoring and acknowledging the strides we have made as women in pharmacy. It is also a day to remember the pioneers in the field that paved the way.  Women like Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf, who is recognized as the first female pharmacist in the US who had 12 children (hence October 12)! Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi who was the first woman to graduate from a school of pharmacy in the US, and Margaret Cornelius “Cora” Dow who was the first female pharmacist to own a chain of pharmacies (11 in total). Zada Mary Cooper is known as the “grand and glorious lady of pharmacy”, and Mary Munson Runge was the first female president of a national pharmacy organization. Each and everyday women pharmacists help advance the practice of pharmacy and science and as a result, change lives. WPD is about recognizing what we as women have accomplished and will continue to accomplish.

 

Today, I encourage everyone to celebrate Women Pharmacists! The celebration is long overdue, and I am so happy that it is finally here. Thank you to all of the pharmacy influencers and to our corporate sponsor, Cardinal Health, for supporting WPD and making this day possible.

 

HAPPY FIRST WOMEN PHARMACIST DAY TO MY TRIBE #RXMOMS AND TO ALL WOMEN PHARMACISTS!

 

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS

Founder, Pharmacist Moms Group

www.pharmacistmomsgroup.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pharmacistmomsgroup/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzyatpharmacistmoms/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/smsoliman1