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Visit Mentors' Round Table to read our interviews of women in the fields of science and health. These are women of varying levels of experience and backgrounds, brought to the table to answer your questions about everything from work-life balance to financial management. Read on, be inspired, and leave them (and us!) a comment!

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Clinical Pharmacy

Clinical Pharmacy is an interesting career path that can be taken by graduates of pharmacy programs. To learn more, read the interview of a clinical pharmacist who has been in practice for over two years. Learn more about Pharmacy here.

Interview with a Clinical Pharmacist

What is your career?

I am a clinical pharmacist specializing in infectious diseases. I got my PharmD degree and then did 2 years of residency for my specialty- 1 year of general practice and then one year of infectious diseases. I am employed by the pharmacy department in an urban hospital. I work with the infectious diseases team in the hospital and control the use of both restricted and unrestricted antibiotics with the goal of increasing patient safety and decreasing hospital costs.

What do you do in an average day at work?

I now work in an urban hospital and head the antimicrobial stewardship program. My basic function is to review antibiotic orders on a daily basis and ensure they are appropriate- the best antibiotic for the specific microbe, the appropriate dose, timing interval, duration of therapy, monitoring, etc. I also round with the ID consult service daily and make recommendations regarding choice of antibiotic and dosing, especially for antibiotics that require pharmacokinetic calculations for optimal dosing. I do my own consults for patients with Clostridium dificile infection, approve restricted antibiotics and do medication use evaluations and/or research projects as they come up, and head the pharmacokinetic service. I am in charge of any antimicrobial issues that come up, such as designing protocols or dealing with antibiotic shortages. I report to various hospital committees like P&T (pharmacy and therapeutics committee) and Quality Assurance. I precept PGY1 pharmacy residents during their ID rotation and occasionally precept PharmD students (the more occasional, the better- I dislike having students!).

In terms of a more global definition of a clinical pharmacist, that basically means a pharmacist who is not standing behind a counter in a pharmacy verifying prescriptions and handing out medications. A clinical pharmacist will either be working in a hospital or clinic setting and providing clinical services in a specific area (infectious diseases, critical care, pediatrics, cardiology...). When practicing in a hospital inpatient setting, a clinical pharmacist will typically be rounding with a service within their area of specialty and making recommendations to the medical team. When practicing in an ambulatory setting, a clinical pharmacist will typically be seeing patients either before or after the patient sees their MD and will discuss medication changes, goals of therapy, possible side effects and how to handle them, etc, with the patient. The pharmacist will also bring up any concerns they have regarding a patient's therapy with the MD. As an example, if a clinical pharmacist is rounding with the inpatient cardiology team, they may recommend to increase the dose of the patient's blood thinner (such as enoxaparin) because studies have shown that higher doses are needed in obese patients. If a clinical pharmacist is seeing a patient in an anti-coagulation clinic, they may recommend to decrease the dose of the patient's blood thinner (such as warfarin) for a week because the patient was given an antibiotic for 7 days that interacts with warfarin. There are endless possibilities of what a clinical pharmacist can offer both on an inpatient and outpatient basis, and no 2 clinical pharmacists will have identical jobs.

How did you choose your career?

I thought that being a pharmacist would be a cool job when I was in high school. The average salary looked cool as well!

Were there any obstacles you had to face in your training or later career?

B"H (Thank G-d) things have been smooth for the most part. At times the years of school and residency were grueling and the light at the end of the tunnel was dim, but I took it one day at a time and B"H made it through.

Have there been any problems in your work life or training that have arisen because of your religion?

I haven't faced any major problems. My rotation sites, residency program and current practice site were always willing to work around Shabbos shifts for me. The only difficulties I remember were during pharmacy school where I had to miss winter lectures on Friday and making up exams that were giving on yom tov (Jewish Holidays). I had to take long answer type exams instead of the easier multiple choice style my classmates took.

How do you handle ethical questions that arise?

None come to mind at the moment but I would discuss it with the Rav (Rabbi) in my neighborhood who is the "go to" expert on medical sheilos (questions about Jewish ethics or laws).

What do you like best about your career? What do you like least?

I love what I do on a day-to-day basis. I am challenged daily and help ensure my patients are receiving optimal care. I leave the house in the morning excited and enthusiastic. I dislike workplace politics and administrative duties that come along with the territory.

Are you married?

Yes, B"H.

Do you have children, how many?

I have 3 children, B"H.

How do you balance family and work life?

First of all, let me say straight out that my family comes way ahead of my career. However, they are pretty different compartments of my life. I leave the kids in the morning and shift my focus on the workday ahead. I leave work in the evening and shift my focus to my family. I rarely bring work home. I feel energized and excited to shift gears both in the morning and in the evening. If the morning rush was stressful, it's a good feeling to sit in the quiet car and know that it's all on hold until the evening. While I drive home, I try to clear out all the last minute workday stuff cluttering my brain and start focusing on what lies ahead at home. I don't take being a mother or wife for granted and feel like I maximize my time with my family by giving them my full attention when I am home. Because my time with them is not limitless, I think I appreciate being with them more than the average stay-at-home mother. We have a good time unwinding together in the evenings. We take the whole family along when we do errands on Sundays, involve them in cooking and baking, doing laundry, etc. I usually really enjoy having them underfoot and around me when I am busy homemaking and think I have more patience with them because we aren't together all day.

What does your spouse think about your career?

He always was and still is extremely supportive and encouraging. He is proud of me and likes to brag about me to his friends and family. That sure makes me feel great!

What does your family think about your career?

My family is happy that I am happy and fulfilled. It took them a while to come around. They encouraged me to be a pharmacist because of the part-time opportunities and the excellant hourly wages I could earn. They weren't expecting me to continue my education going for a residency and turning a "good job" into a full-time career. While they never actively discouraged me, they would sometimes voice an opinion about cutting back, working part-time, teaching in BY (religious girls school), etc. I think after telling them a few hundred times how this works for me and I love what I am doing (and as they see my delicious kids thriving B"H) they are finally realizing that this is what I want to be doing at this point in my life.

How did you handle the financial stress of training?

I was awarded some generous financial scholarships for some of my years of training and my parents contributed too. During the last year of training the scholarships were no longer offered so I took out government subsidized student loans. The interest rate is very, very low and the loan amount is pretty low as well. B"H it is really not a big deal to be paying back the loans monthly. Of course we lived quite frugally during my schooling and residency but that's the way my husband and I are in general.

Are things turning out the way you planned or are they different? Is your career different than what you expected when you chose it?

Things are turning out better than I would have expected initially, when I started pharmacy school. I didn't think I would have the ability to devote all the years necessary to be a clinical pharmacist when I started. Now I have my "dream job" and am very happy on a daily basis. In a more global view, I am ready to move on to a different practice site, having been disillusioned by some of the politicking and poor leadership, but there's enough of an upside to my site that leads me to stick around until something better comes up. In addition, I do see myself possibly scaling back to a more academic position in the future that would allow me more flexible leave for Yom Tov (Holidays), summer vacations, maternity, etc, but for now, I am very happy with where I am in my career.

Do you have any advice for students aspiring to be where you are?

If this is what you want to do, there is no reason not to go for it. It's completely doable if you have the desire. I started pharmacy school as a single girl straight from seminary. It is now 10.5 years after graduating a BY high school and I am married to a gem of a guy with 3 delicious children aged 11 months to 6 years, B"H, and I have a fabulous career. Go for it!

If you could do this over again would you? Is there anything you would change?

Yes, this is what I would do if I had to do it over. I wouldn't change anything major.

Do you have any role models you look up to?

I looked up to a frum (religious) faculty member at my college of pharmacy who was raising a wonderful family while working for the university full-time. She was very encouraging to me and I saw myself as her at the finish line.

Are there any other questions you think we should include or anything else you would like to share?

This interview doesn't focus on what I actually "do." I'm not sure if the term "clinical pharmacist" is something that too many people could define. If anyone would like to know more about that, just let me know.

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