University of Arizona College of Pharmacy Students awoke on March 13, 2020 feeling equal parts dread and excitement as they would finally learn whether they matched into the pharmacy residency program they had hoped for.
“Everything you’ve done in your pharmacy career leads up to this one day and this one email,” shared College of Pharmacy alum Joseph Murata, who was matched into a Postgraduate Year Two (PGY2) residency at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson’s Critical Care program. Match day is the culmination of years of effort. The day brings with it an array of emotions as students learn what the next chapter of their professional lives will entail. “When moving rotation sites every six weeks, it can be easy to feel adrift,” said fourth year PharmD student Tyler Eastep, who matched at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Match day, at least for me, gave me a sense of direction for the next stage of my career.”
“Pharmacy residency programs began in the 1960’s and have become more common as part of pharmacists’ career pathways over the last 20+ years,” explained Hanna Phan, PharmD, FCCP, FPPA, Associate Professor and Assistant Department Head with the College of Pharmacy, who assists in mentoring students interested in Pharmacy Residency programs. Dr. Phan and faculty colleagues developed the Residency-Fellowship Preparation Program in 2011. This ongoing program, now led by Amy Kennedy, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, Assistant Professor with the College of Pharmacy, helps P4 students with guidance and mentorship regarding the application process. “Some states’ collaborative practice or advanced practice legislation require postgraduate training such as residency or a number of years of practice experience to qualify. The growing diversity of career pathways in pharmacy have contributed to the need for residency and/or fellowship training for some careers.”
Positions available in pharmacy residency programs are offered to applicants through the ASHP Resident Matching Program (“the Match”). The Match provides a system to help both applicants and programs find the right fit for them. Applicants apply to programs they are interested in and then attend interviews where they are encouraged to evaluate the program as much as they are being evaluated by the program. Once interviews are completed, each applicant submits a rank order list in which they place their desired programs in numerical order based on preference. Simultaneously, programs will create a similar list of applicants they are interested in. Then the two-week waiting period begins where positions are assigned based off of the listed preferences from the applicants and the programs using an established algorithm.
“Once you submit your rank order list, you have 2 weeks until match day. I was feeling anxious, but ready to embrace my next step,” shared Ann Shangraw, who matched with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). “Now that the anticipation is over, I am overwhelmed with joy that I matched to STVHCS.”
“It was without a doubt, the longest two weeks of my life,” shared Gabriel Rallison, who matched into the Dignity Health program at Chandler Regional Medical Center. “I honestly did everything in my power to avoid thinking and worrying about what match day would bring. Once it came and went, I felt like a weight had been lifted.”
The UArizona College of Pharmacy matched at a rate of 67%, above the national average for Phase I. Students are not only headed to programs across the country, but many are staying in the state of Arizona to help further the mission of the college by providing much needed healthcare resources to the local community.
While the feelings surrounding match day can be overwhelming, the real story begins once the excitement has worn off and students can focus on the next phase of their career in pharmacy.
“Residency is not just about advancing my clinical knowledge, but developing confidence as a healthcare provider who can be the medication expert in any situation,” explained Saba Maghari who matched in a program at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System.
“There are some things you can’t learn or buy, one of those being experience,” said Trevor Jeffers who matched into a program at Banner - University Medical Center South in Tucson, AZ. “I could have gone out and gotten a job somewhere else, but I may have missed out on the experience I will gain during my residency year.”
“Even after four years of school, I know there is still so much more I have to learn,” shared Brandy Barrett who matched into the Managed Care residency program with Atena Medicaid. “I believe a residency will allow me to become an even better pharmacist.”
For students interested in potentially pursuing a residency program after they complete pharmacy school, Barrett had this lesson to share: “Don’t be discouraged if you’re not 100% sure which direction you want to go; go with your gut and take everyone else’s opinion with a grain of salt because in the end it’s you who will be going to that residency every day.”