To be a Resident or not to be....

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As stated in my last blog post, I intended to update you about my progress through the Smartly EMBA program. Since I am still in the process of completing my first concentration, however, I decided to address a different topic for the current article.

I believe that this article will be more pertinent to pharmacy students and pharmacists, who constantly read and hear about the residency debate; but they feel that the many discussions have no clear answers. Therefore, as a pharmacy student who initially pursued research but decided on changing gears to be a business owner and clinical pharmacist, I hope to share my perspective with you and shed some light on the matter.

The Decision

A few years ago, I was a pharmacy student in the PharmD/PhD dual degree program; and as you can imagine, my complete dedication to research left little time for me to debate about residency. Then, as expected after pharmacy school, I continued with my graduate studies.

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As I balanced being a relief community pharmacist and a full-time graduate student for the following year, however, I realized my love for having direct and positive impact on patient outcomes; and I also had to self-admit about my waning passion for research. As a result, I chose to discontinue my graduate studies and solely practice as a pharmacist.

The Job Market

The timing of my decision, however, occurred after the application deadline for the upcoming residency cycle. Therefore, I applied to current pharmacist openings. As expected, the hospital positions were not very accepting of a newly pharmacy graduate without residency experience; and surprisingly, nearby full-time community or retail positions were non-existent.

As I evaluated the situation, I noticed that the job market for pharmacists was usually saturated in large and popular cities with pharmacy schools; and in order to obtain a pharmacist position, I had to be willing to travel further for work. So, I expanded my job search radius from thirty minutes to sixty or seventy-five minutes from home. I also used LinkedIn to reconnect with recruiters and find smaller pharmacies that needed part-time or full-time pharmacists. Lastly, to set myself apart from the crowd, I also made personal appearances at pharmacies to simply drop off my applications and resumes.

The Interviews

After experience with a few interviews, I learned that the hiring managers liked their pharmacists to appear confident. So, although you are able to make the hiring manager laugh, your exhibiting of too much humility will actually hurt you!

Therefore, do not voluntarily mention your weaknesses unless solicited by the interviewer. Once the conversation is on the table, however, then genuinely thank the hiring manager for his or her consideration; and most importantly, you will also need to convincingly demonstrate to the interviewer that your personality and strengths will enable you to exceed their expectations and overcome any lack of experience.

The Pharmacy Manager Position

Within a year of my experience with Target, an independent pharmacy offered me a pharmacy manager position with a chance to provide ambulatory care services. Since I still considered myself to be a recent graduate, I was initially hesitant about the management position. After additional consideration, however, I decided to seize the opportunity, which was a great learning experience.

As I reflected on my few years as a pharmacy manager, I believed that I experienced a lot of self-growth. In addition to constantly striving to be a better leader, I kept up-to-date with the continually changing field of pharmacy through self-studying and obtaining board certifications in geriatrics and ambulatory care.

The Myths

Now, I would like to dispel some myths about being able to write your ticket anywhere with pharmacy management experience and board certifications. After a few years at the independent pharmacy, I decided to launch my own business; and since my consulting business was in its infancy, I thought that part-time and relief pharmacist positions would provide some necessary income for personal expenses and business investments.

Unfortunately, finding such flexible positions posed more difficult than I anticipated. Relief openings were actually rare in the community settings. As for the hospitals, clinics, and insurance companies, on the other hand, they had a higher demand for part-time and relief pharmacists. Without residency, hospital, or insurance experience as a pharmacist, however, human resources (HR) consistently turned away my applications; and if they were interested in me, they would only offer full-time, manager, or director positions.

The Present

Good news! Although my consulting business is still in its preliminary stages, I currently have some clients; and I hope to further expand my enhanced pharmacy services. Furthermore, I finally obtained a part-time clinical telepharmacist position!

The Conclusion

So, let’s go back to the original inquiry. Is being a clinical pharmacist possible without residency? To concisely respond to your question, the answer is yes. In reference to my personal experiences, however, the journey is extremely difficult!

If you are a life-long learner who will stay well-informed about the field of pharmacy and obtain board certifications, your clinical knowledge and experience will enable you to positively affect patient outcomes. Some hiring managers and HR personnel, however, value residency above an applicant’s experience and potential. Therefore, unfortunately, you will receive more rejection than acceptance letters. So, if there is the slightest possibility that you might want to be a clinical pharmacist in the future, you should consider residency.

On the other hand, you can be a non-traditionalist who disrupts the current system. You can become an ambulatory care pharmacist, who expands the provision of enhanced pharmacy services for an independent pharmacy. You can also personally meet with a primary care provider (PCP) or family physician, who might consider hiring you as a full-time employee. Lastly, but not least, you can be the founder of your own company; and of course, there are additional possibilities!

As you can deduce from my experiences, you never know where life will take you. So, be open to the many opportunities that will be available to you! I hope that pharmacy students and pharmacists will find this article informative and helpful towards their decisions about residency. Best wishes to all of you in obtaining happiness within your careers!


Ross Phan is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin - College of Pharmacy. She is also the Off Script Consults founder with years of experience as a board certified independent pharmacist, who strives to improve the quality of life and financial outcomes of patients and their caring providers through the delivery of enhanced pharmacy services, such as interpreting genetics testing results and assisting providers in achieving star ratings that aim to improve patient outcomes.

Ross currently resides in the beautiful state of Colorado with her husband and two dogs. When she is not personalizing medication regimens, Ross enjoys reading and writing.  She also loves to paint, hike, rock-climb, and travel.

Find out more about Ross by scheduling an appointment via phone or connecting with her through social media (LinkedInFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest) and website.