Residency: Preparing future pharmacists for the workforce

The public perception and actual role of pharmacists in the United States is in the midst of a change. More and more U.S. pharmacists are transitioning from traditional roles like the filling of prescriptions to full participation in the health care team.

To meet the demand of this shift in the health care landscape, more and more doctorate of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students now turn to residencies to learn how to meet patients’ medication needs first hand.

But unfortunately, not every student who applies for a residency is able to find one.

“While pharmacy residencies have been available for decades, the demand for them has increased in recent years, said Sarah Westberg, Pharm.D., residency director for the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy’s Ambulatory Care Residency Program and associate professor of pharmaceutical care and health systems. “Clinical workplaces are starting to require residency training more and more. Education and professional associations are not yet requiring residency, but they are encouraging it.”

For pharmacy students who plan to work directly with patients in a hospital or clinic, residency can provide extra experience and skills to help make graduates more appealing to health system employers, said Westberg.

Much like a dentistry or medical residency, a pharmacy residency provides residents with a safe environment to build upon the skills they’ve gained in the classroom. Residency prepares residents to take on advanced patient care responsibilities, including an advanced understanding of care plan development for patients taking multiple medications or experiencing medication-related problems.

In 2012, 52 percent of U of M College of Pharmacy graduates matched with a residency program.

Through the College of Pharmacy’s Ambulatory Care Residency, residents at 15 sites across urban and rural Minnesota learn, provide medication expertise, and introduce new advanced pharmacy care programs like medication management to communities. The medication management programs residents develop are known for their high success rates and sometimes lead to continuing post-graduate employment for residents at their sites.

And that’s good news for U of M College of Pharmacy graduates. While, the number of pharmacists graduating has steadily increased over the past 12 years – in a pattern some predict is too large to be sustainable – 96 percent of U of M Pharm.D. students continue to find pharmacy jobs within six months of graduation, with or without residency experience.

“Our College of Pharmacy’s residency program is one the largest of its kind in the country.  We take a lot of the burden of running a residency off the health system, so they can focus on education, by doing things like maintaining the administrative needs,” said Westberg. “There are a lot of things that have to come together for a new site to be successful, but every year for the last several years we’ve added a new one. Direct patient-care experience helps residents be as qualified as they can possible be.”

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