April showers bring May flowers! Fortunately, it’s not raining too heavily in San Francisco right now. Just in case, I’ll knock on wood 😉
As I get ready for UC Berkeley’s PILLS (Pre-Pharmacy Informational Learning and Leadership Society) 7th Annual NCPPS (Northern California Pre-Pharmacy Symposium), I find myself ruminating over some of the panel questions. I thought it would be nice to update my blog with some of these rampant thoughts. Before I begin my post, I would like to reiterate my disclaimer: opinions are opinions 🙂
I think one of the quintessential pre-pharmacy questions is whether or not one should take a year off or more before starting pharmacy school. For those who have asked me this, I usually give the same answer: only if you are so inclined. I believe that a lot of pre-pharmacy students underestimate their qualifications, which leads to the self-doubt that may culminate in the decision to wait an extra year before applying. But I also understand that there are students who simply want to take a breather before committing to professional school. This usually translates into a year or more of working and contributing to corporate America, which is the perfect segue into my next suggestion of finding a pharmacy position, such as a clerk or technician. Now, I want to emphasize that pharmacy schools do not require nor expect their students to have prior pharmacy experience, but my experience has shown me that pharmacy exposure may smooth out some bumps in pharmacy school. So, quintessential question number two: does one need pharmacy experience to get into pharmacy school? Nope, but I would recommend it for a few reasons:
- You get a glimpse into the patient-centered world of pharmacy. Any shadowing or volunteering in a pharmacy demonstrates your genuine interest in the field and your understanding of what the profession entails.
- Pharmacy school classes may be easier (to a certain extent). I’ve noticed that my classmates with pharmacy technician backgrounds had an easier time learning OTC products and pharmacy law because of their familiarity with the numerous products and P&P (policies and procedures).
- It may be easier find a pharmacy internship–emphasis on the may. Once again, most employers will state that applicants do not need pharmacy experience, but from what I have seen, the applicant with pharmacy experience looks stronger on paper than the applicant without. However, this does not attest to actual interpersonal skills or pharmacy knowledge, which is a limitation of the initial screening process.
For those of you looking for pharmacy experience, but haven’t had luck with or aren’t aiming for positions as clerks or technicians, being a pharmacy volunteer is substantial too! My only experiences were as a pharmacy volunteer, which allowed me to shadow the pharmacists and engage in patient interaction. I would recommend seeking out local pharmacies and asking if you could spend a few days shadowing the pharmacists or volunteering in the pharmacy. Truth be told, volunteer programs are becoming saturated, but persistence and resourcefulness are good traits to have 🙂
To backtrack to the first quintessential question, my perspective is that gap years should focus more on self-development (traveling) than professional development (jobs and internships). I’m a hypocrite for saying it, but I do have the hindsight to say it. You’ll be spending the rest of your life as a professional, starting with pharmacy school and quickly transitioning into a pharmacy-related workplace. From a longitudinal perspective, would you truly want to spend that valuable gap year doing more work? Perhaps this is just me vocalizing my regret in not taking a gap year to travel, especially since it’s becoming more apparent that my number of real vacations is slowly dwindling away to nothing. So, while traveling sacrifices professional development, it fosters self-development through curiosity, cultural awareness, maturity, independence. And that deserves my respect.