How to Transition from a Student to a Pharmacist

April 24, 2017 - 11:06am


Changing your self-view from "student" to "pharmacist" can be surprisingly tough, writes Brandon Dyson, clinical pharmacist in Austin Texas and writer for

Dr Dyson speaks from the perspective of students entering pharmacy practice in the USA. However, the common difficulties of transitioning to professional life are felt by pharmacy graduates around the world. He offers three pieces of advice learned during his transition from student to pharmacist:

1. Take an active role in patient care.

Prior to practice, the student will rarely be granted full autonomy and clinical decisions are often supported in an academic framework. In practice, the new pharmacist faces complex decision making, has more responsibility without the guiding hand of a preceptor and is expected to be politely assertive when a potential drug therapy issue is identified. Combined with the busy schedule of a clinical pharmacist this can be very challenging. To overcome these challenges Dyson suggests the new pharmacist must commit to take an active role in patient care: “Overcome this hurdle by mentally accepting your new role as the pharmacist and by fully embracing the responsibilities that come with it. Visualize yourself as an active part of the patient care team and always act in the best interest of the patient.”

2. Hone your communication skills.

Decoding medical diagnoses to patients, making recommendations to physicians and other prescribers, handing off to pharmacist colleagues and discussing patient care issues with nurses are just some of the ways in which a pharmacist needs to be an accomplished communicator. Dyson advises new practitioners to seek out opportunities to hone their ability to communicate. “Start early, and practice often. The more effectively you can interact with others, the easier your transition from student to pharmacist will be.”

3. Understand what a pharmacist contributes to patient care.

To the person on the medical team with the highest level of medication expertise, Dyson offers this advice: “To successfully transition from student to pharmacist, you will need to be able to contribute the skill set that only a pharmacist brings to the table. While it's impossible to make an exhaustive list of what that entails, here are some common areas of opportunity on which to focus your attention:  
•    Renal adjustments
•    Drug-Drug interactions
•    Therapeutic substitutions for patients with a drug allergy
•    Antibiotic streamlining and stewardship
•    IV to PO switches
•    Discontinuing unnecessary use of acid-suppressing agents
•    Drugs with a narrow therapeutic index”

In summary, Dr Dyson says: “Transitioning from a student to a pharmacist is difficult, but not impossible. By committing to play an active role in patient care, honing your communication skills, and understanding the clinical role of a pharmacist, you can make your transition a lot less painful.”

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