Author: Morgan Krause, PharmD, BSPS
Preparing for residency can be an overwhelming process! An important component of residency preparation is attendance at showcases. Whether you are attending the residency showcase at Ohio Society of Health-System Pharmacists (OSHP) or the residency showcase at American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)’s Midyear Meeting, it is important to do your research about the programs you are interested in and arrive prepared. After reflecting on my residency preparation, I have some of my tips regarding preparation, attendance and interactions at the residency showcase.
Be honest with yourself.
Take the time to self-reflect prior to attending the showcase. Why do you want to participate in post-graduate training? What are your goals related to residency training? What skills and experiences would you like to enhance throughout your training? What areas of pharmacy are you NOT interested in? What type of pharmacist do you want to be when you grow up?
If you ponder residency-related goals early, your journey will be much smoother. By establishing your values and goals upfront, you will feel more confident as you navigate the available programs. Understanding your goals, values, and important aspects that you are looking for in a program is an important before even stepping into a residency showcase.
Be honest with the programs.
Residents and the residency program directors are at the showcase to answer your questions and to get to know you better. If you are not interested in their program, politely move along. No feelings will be hurt, and no bridges will be burned. Also, do not pretend to be interested in a program. Pretending to be interested in pediatric intensive care does not bode well to the program you just expressed your ambulatory care interest to; your interests may not be in clear alignment with what the program has to offer.
On the contrary, it is okay to have some uncertainty related to what you want to do with your career. Do not be afraid to explore programs outside of your comfort zone. This may include programs in an unfamiliar location, or with unique learning experiences. You may discover more about your own interests and find a mentor in the least expected way.
Treat the showcase as an interview
Dress for success! If you own a suit or a nice blazer, wear it. Suitable colors include black, navy blue, or grey. If you decide to wear a dress or skirt, wear the appropriate length. In general, keep the dress or skirt at least one inch above the knee. If you are uncertain if your clothing is appropriate, do not wear it. It is important to showcase your professionalism while you interact with the residents and directors. Do not allow your clothing to serve as a distraction!
“What questions do you have?” is a common saying you will experience throughout the residency process. The showcase is no exception. Identify what questions you want to ask each program prior to the showcase.You will appear more professional if you are able to have a conversation with the resident or residency director. If you are fidgeting through your papers or struggling to think of a question, you may appear unprepared or uninterested in the program.
ASHP has an online residency directory – take advantage of it! Additionally, the ASHP directory will have a link to the program’s website if one is available. Read through the descriptions of the programs that will be in attendance at the showcase. Find the programs that have your specialty of interest. What else would you like to know about a certain learning experience within the program? How could you incorporate that learning experience into a research project? Write those questions down and bring them with you.
In addition to the ASHP online residency directory, explore the website of residency programs as well. If the information is visibly available on both of these resources, avoid formulating questions around this material. Take the time to reflect on your own interests and values and formulate unique questions to ask of the programs.
Also, bring your business cards and CVs. Stay hydrated. The day will fly by, and all of the programs will begin to blend together. Bring a notebook to quickly jot down notes after talking with residency programs. Go somewhere private after each interaction to collect your thoughts. Remember to grab the business card of each resident or residency director you talked with! Write down what you discussed on the back of the card. You have a lot of thank-you e-mails or hand-written letters to construct after the showcase, and you want to guarantee you have the correct person. In your follow up, be sure to reference something specific you discussed with your new connection. This demonstrates that the conversation was meaningful. Remember, this is the beginning of a career-long professional relationship with the person.
The residency showcase is a long day, but it is very rewarding. While you are able to interact with the residency programs, you are also able to interact with your friends and classmates that you may not have seen since rotations started. Stay positive, enjoy the support of your peers, and absorb the positive energy around you! You are one step closer to your dreams. Do not forget how far you have come, and how far you will go.
Morgan Krause, PharmD, BSPS