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Advice from the Experts: Wrapping Up Residency

Rebecca Martin, PharmD
PGY-2 Pharmacy Hematology/Oncology Resident
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Salt Lake City, UT

Jenessa Lee, PharmD
PGY2 Pharmacy Hematology/Oncology Resident
Hollings Cancer Center
Charleston, SC

We reached out to oncology pharmacists around the country to hear their advice for current postgraduate year-2 (PGY-2) hematology/oncology residents completing the last quarter of residency. We asked them to elaborate on things they wish they had done differently and resources they wish they had used and to offer any tips and tricks to prepare for beginning a career as a clinical oncology pharmacist.

Staying Connected and Up to Date

  • Stay involved in organizations by becoming a member, volunteering  on committees, and speaking at national conferences.
  • Attend national meetings of relevant organizations:  Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, American Pharmacists Association,  American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, American Society of  Clinical Oncology, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American  Society of Hematology, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, Society of  Gynecologic Oncology).
  • Join local and state pharmacy organizations.
  • Join listservs.
  • Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, hashtags at  meetings).
  • Subscribe to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerts.
  • Subscribe to oncology journals and peruse the new publications  each week. Try to read one article each day.
  • Sign up for e-mails to receive the tables of contents of selected  oncology journals.;
  • Precept students and residents to keep you on your toes. Use them  as a resource for newly published articles (e.g., through a journal club) to  teach you new things.
  • Complete various continuing education activities to maintain board  certification.
  • Create and update disease-based pathways and order sets for your  providers
  • Sign up to be a journal reviewer.

Secrets to Post-Residency Success

  • Continue to grow and challenge yourself daily.
  • Never stop learning! Keep that resident's mindset of always  looking to gain knowledge.
  • Don't take on too much your first year following residency. Focus  on getting comfortable in your new role as an independent clinical pharmacist.
  • Learn from your mistakes, and don’t be afraid to admit when you  are wrong. The best practitioners turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
  • Find a mentor, and recognize that you may need to find a new  mentor depending on your season of life or chosen career track. Most  practitioners cannot maintain the same level of achievement that they did in  the first 5 years of their career, so you may need to pick a new mentor to keep  yourself challenged and progressing even if the pace or rigor is reduced.
  • Choose a job you love, but don’t be afraid to try a new facet of  oncology pharmacy as opportunities arise.
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Stay connected with others in pharmacy.

Avoiding Post-Residency Burnout

  • Take advantage of opportunities, but avoid taking on too many  tasks at once, and learn how to say no when things do not align with your  continuous professional development plan.
  • Determine where your niche lies. When you have a feel for what  really excites you, let commitments lapse that don’t support the path to  securing that niche.
  • Breathe. Take your vacation time, and truly disconnect from work  when possible.
  • Protect your time. Plan hobbies or activities for yourself away  from the hospital to encourage you to finish work on time.
  • Always ask for help when necessary.

#NoRegrets—If You Could Do Anything Differently at the Start of Your Post-Residency Career, What Would It Be and Why?

  • I wanted to be very involved and signed up as a resident advisor,  research advisory committee member, and research committee member. I found this  to be too much too soon and wish I had said no to one of those opportunities.  That would have allowed me to focus just on being a pharmacist and establishing  my practice.
  • I would have traveled more before starting full-time work!;
  • I regret not being more involved from the get-go as a new  practitioner in pharmacy organizations.
  • I would have integrated myself into the team more quickly and  shown team members how important pharmacy can be for their care team.
  • Realize that oncology has many gray areas, and understand that  your new institution may practice in different ways than you're used to.

Checklists and Planning Goals

  • Make a checklist of outstanding projects for the completion of  your residency. Put everything on your list, and check them off as you go.
  • Don’t let missed or rushed deadlines prevent you from taking  advantage of your final quarter of learning opportunities.
  • Make a list of all the things you want exposure to and experience  with before the end of residency. Now is the time to get the experiences you  may not have in your new role.
  • Become as independent as possible. After you know your job setting  and patient population, try rotating in that area, and ask your preceptor to  give you autonomy so you know what it will feel like when you start your new  job.
  • Create a list of career goals for your first 6 months as an  initial continuous professional-development plan, and hold yourself  accountable.
  • Complete your project and submit your manuscript before you are  done with your PGY-2 residency.
  • You are in the final stretch. All of the work and time you have  spent on your education and training is almost finished. Just keep going!

Additional Resources

  • Networking
  • for patient education materials
  • DailyMed for package inserts
  • HOPA alerts for FDA approvals
  • for summarized chemotherapy regimens
  • for drug  interactions
  • for drug  interactions and QTc-prolonging risk of medications
  • Information from pharmaceutical manufacturers (e.g., PowerPoint  slides, stability information, unique patients in clinical trials);
  • NCCN templates, compendiums, and other resources

A final piece of advice comes from an anonymous source:
"Opportunity will knock at random times, so be sure to keep an open ear and not  be so hardheaded as to pass it up."

Thanks to all who took the time to send in responses to our  survey. We appreciate your participation and enthusiasm for helping guide  future oncology pharmacists all over the country!