Residencies offer specialized training for future pharmacists

By Jan Jarvis

Cox Web
 
The e-mail that Brittany Cox had been anticipating arrived exactly on time.

“I woke up at 7 and it came right after that,” she said. “It was such a relief to finally know what I’ll be doing for the next year.”

Cox and 13 fourth-year UNT System College of Pharmacy students recently learned via email which residency program they had matched through Phase 1 of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Phone calls from the residency program where they would spend at least the next year soon followed. Another 12 fourth-year College of Pharmacy students are attempting to match in Phase II.

For Cox, learning she matched with her top choice – Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – was reason to celebrate.

“I had been there for my rotation and I just loved their program,” she said. “I was really sold on them.”

Although pharmacy students are not required to do a residency, a growing number are opting to pursue additional training and becoming certified in specialized fields. Pharmacy graduates may complete one or two years of residency, depending on their career path.

In a world where the pharmacist’s role is expanding, particularly in hospitals and medical practices, doing a residency is more important than ever, said Randy Martin, PharmD, Interim Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs.

A residency is critical for those who want to go into a specialized area such as critical care, oncology or infectious diseases, he said.

“It’s not like the old days when pharmacists just stood behind a counter filling prescriptions,” Dr. Martin said. “Today pharmacists, whether in a community, pharmacy or academic institution like ours, are helping make decisions in health care, and in some settings they’re completely managing medication therapy.”

Cox liked Baylor All Saints because it offered her the chance to work in three areas: emergency medicine, critical care and transplant services.

“I’d like to work directly with patients and these specialty areas offer that,” she said. “I also like being the expert in something and focusing on that one area.”

The residency match is a first step in getting extra training that will help graduates achieve their career goals.

Like Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine students, fourth-year College of Pharmacy students submit a ranked list of their top residency programs. At the same time hospitals, academic institutions and pharmacies rank applicants for a possible match. Those students who don’t match get another opportunity in the second and third cycles.

Pharmacy residency programs are extremely competitive. Last year, 67 percent of students seeking a residency matched, which is above the national average, Dr. Martin said.

There’s a growing need for more residency programs for pharmacy graduates. To meet the need for more residencies, the UNT System College of Pharmacy is expanding its own program.

The residency programs are designed to equip graduates with the skills to manage all aspects of medication therapy in inpatient and ambulatory care settings. The College of Pharmacy, in conjunction with UNT Health, is starting a new specialty residency in ambulatory care that has accepted two second-year residents starting in July.

“There just aren’t enough programs in the U.S. to meet the number of students interested in pursuing a residency,” Dr. Martin said. “We’re growing out post-graduate programs and giving students more opportunities to match here.”

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