Postgraduate pharmacy residency: Katie's story

Are you considering a postgraduate pharmacy residency?

Postgraduate pharmacy residency: Katie’s story

After graduating from pharmacy school, you can pursue more clinical education or research. If you choose the research path, that’s called a fellowship. (Read all about Austin’s fellowship experience here.) But, if you choose to pursue clinical education, that’s called a residency.

What is a residency?

A pharmacy residency is an organized, directed, postgraduate training program in a defined area of pharmacy practice. It provides the knowledge and experience to further training with a clinical focus. During residency, a resident performs as a licensed practitioner but trains under the supervision of an experienced preceptor. As many as 42% of Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy graduates pursue either a residency or a fellowship.

PGY1 Katie Hensley shares her experience in her postgraduate pharmacy residency.

What is your current role?

I’m a post-graduate year-1 (PGY-1) acute-care resident.


Where are you doing your residency?

I’ve been fortunate to have successfully matched with Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL. Lee Health is a great health system from a resident perspective because they consist of five hospitals – four adult and one pediatric hospital, providing many opportunities to expand my horizon and get exposure to many practice areas that pharmacists are involved in.


Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

Overall, I took a very convoluted pathway to get to where I’m today. Now, I share my story about how obtaining my doctorate began with a dropout. At 17-years-old, I chose to withdraw from high school. Shortly after, I met my now husband who urged me to pursue my general education diploma (G.E.D.). Within a couple of weeks from obtaining my G.E.D., I started working at Walgreens Pharmacy.

Seeking a challenge

I remained at Walgreens for nearly three years, where I found myself searching for more of a challenge. In 2011, I started working at Meriter Hospital (now Unity Point Health-Meriter Hospital) in Madison, WI. This is where my life truly began.

I primarily worked out of the emergency room and with directly-admitted patients. In this position, I obtained accurate medication histories, something I’m very passionate about today. It was very rewarding to know that pharmacists and providers relied on me to have in-depth conversations with patients regarding their home medications. I worked among some of the most intelligent and patient-oriented pharmacists. As time went on, I found myself asking pharmacists how the medications worked, mechanistically. That’s when I realized perhaps I was destined for something greater.

After my first year or so at Meriter, a few of the pharmacists would suggest the idea of pharmacy school. One evening, after having a conversation with some of the pharmacists, I decided to go home and apply to UW-Whitewater for undergrad. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. I thought, given my less-than-ideal completion of high school, that my chances of getting accepted were slim, if at all. It wasn’t until I received that UW-Whitewater acceptance letter that I truly started to see my own ability, what I was truly capable of achieving in this great life.

I applied to a few pharmacy schools. Concordia University – Wisconsin was the first one that I was offered an interview. I remember exactly how I felt leaving the interview that day. It truly felt like I was supposed to be a part of something at Concordia, and that’s because I was.


What made you want to pursue a pharmacy residency after graduation?

Knowing that those same pharmacists that inspired me were residency-trained, I knew that if I was going to pursue pharmacy school that [I would choose] a fifth-year residency. I never thought it would be anything else.


How did CUW help prepare you for a pharmacy residency?

The pharmacy program at CUW’s School of Pharmacy was certainly challenging. I believe that the top-notch faculty that truly contributed to my success thus far in residency. The School of Pharmacy’s faculty incorporated the most current practices combined with evidence-based literature to educate the students. There were high expectations, but those expectations yielded rewarding results.


What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your residency?

The rotations I’ve had thus far in residency include trauma-based emergency medicine, internal medicine, family medicine, infectious disease, and a cardiology-focused rotation. Between these learning experiences and my preceptors, I’ve received an infinite amount of knowledge that I truly do not think would be possible without doing a residency.

The most important lesson that I think every pharmacist should have is to remember that you’re treating a human being. That person is someone’s father, child, grandparent, etc. There are going to be some long days and some challenging patients. But, as a pharmacist, we took an oath to provide a lifetime of service to our patients and consider the welfare of humanity while doing so. Just knowing that we as pharmacists are contributing to the well-being of someone’s loved one should make us excited to wake up every day and feel privileged to have the opportunity to do it all over again.


What has been the most memorable moment of your residency?

My emergency medicine rotation requires me to work independently in the emergency room for the last week of the rotation, which includes attending trauma calls. Albeit intimidating at first, it was rewarding to be involved in life-saving measures for the patients I was caring for.


What advice do you have for future pharmacists?

Keep learning. Pharmacy is forever evolving, and our role as a pharmacist continues to expand to improve our patient outcomes. Our patients rely on us to be knowledgeable, and that requires work on our part to ensure we are staying up to date with literature, keeping up with guideline-based practice, and staying informed on latest treatments.


Do you want to know more?

If you’re interested in learning more about Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy, visit us here.

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