Pharmacy students enter world with clinical opportunities

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Pharmacist with patient and child

Where do pharmacy students fit in as they plan careers in a pharmacy landscape that has more than its fair share of challenges, as well as future opportunities? 

Lucinda Maine, executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, recommended that pharmacy students consider ambulatory care as their focus of practice and to prepare for advanced practice roles. “It may or may not require a postgraduate year one ambulatory care residency, but we know that there is an increased interest among students to do that one or two years of postgrad training to qualify themselves for advanced practice roles,” she said.

Additionally, Maine advised pharmacy students not to be constrained in thinking about only serving in traditional practice roles. “There are amazing opportunities for pharmacists in a variety of different environments, and in the future that will include taking leading roles in managing pharmacogenomics services and the other really important primary care activities.”

She also reminded students of geographic variability in the supply and demand, and opportunities in such underserved areas as rural areas or inner cities.

Brian Nightengale, senior vice president of community and specialty pharmacy at AmerisourceBergen and president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, is pushing to create awareness of the great opportunities available for pharmacy students with an entrepreneurial bent to own a pharmacy. Among Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s more than 5,000 independent community pharmacies, the average age of owners is over 60 years old. Many of these pharmacy owners, who are going to transition their business in the next 5 to 10 years, necessarily do not have anybody ready or able to take over ownership.

“While the job market does seem to be fairly challenging because of the supply issues and a lot of pharmacy students graduating, for those who are entrepreneurial, there are tremendous opportunities to go to work for an independent pharmacy and have the opportunity over the next short-term to buy and own that pharmacy,” he said.

No matter which career path pharmacy students pursue, two things are certain: Pharmacists must continue to amass knowledge and to hone their clinical skills, Randy McDonough, owner of Towncrest Pharmacy in Iowa City, Iowa, and a board trustee at the American Pharmacists Association, said. “This is the time to make sure your skills are at their absolute best. Make sure you keep up with therapy knowledge, make sure your clinical skills are very sharp. That will keep you employable and very competitive within the marketplace,” he said.

Given that pharmacy school is expensive and many students graduate with significant debt, Goar Alvarez, assistant dean of pharmacy services at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said that many pharmacy students are worried about the job market. Yet reflecting on how patients have responded positively by getting immunizations from their pharmacists, Alvarez is optimistic that pharmacists will provide additional clinical services, especially as patients come to demand them.  

“It’s a matter of showcasing what we can do and continuing to advocate for being able to practice at the top of our license,” Alvarez said.