Professional development

Pharmacy schools collaborated with other health profession schools to develop four areas of competency that students would learn during their training. An outline of these competencies can be found in Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice: 2016 Update (see especially page 10). Examples of the qualities and skills needed by pharmacists include respect for others and self, cultural competence, integrity, ethical behavior, effective communication, active listening, teamwork, leadership, evidence-based decision-making, and many more. Clinical and volunteer experience can be effective ways to develop these skills.

Clinical experience #

Before you apply, pharmacy schools will expect that you have explored the profession through observing (shadowing) or working in a pharmacy environment.

Job shadowing is an excellent way to explore the daily life of a pharmacist and find out if a career in pharmacy is the right fit for you. Many students are able to arrange shadowing initially through a neighborhood pharmacist. If you do not know of any pharmacists you could ask to shadow, you may wish to send a letter of introduction to some local retail pharmacists asking for the opportunity to shadow. It is also valuable to explore clinical pharmacy as practiced in a hospital setting. Contact local hospitals to see if there are opportunities to shadow hospital-based pharmacists. Many pre-pharmacy students are also able to obtain experience by earning a pharmacy technician certificate and working in a retail pharmacy (Ivy Tech Community College offers a Pharmacy Technician Certificate).

For more suggestions, consult the shadowing page.

Volunteer experience #

Pharmacy schools desire applicants who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to serving others. If you plan to apply to pharmacy school you should endeavor to gain experience serving the community through volunteer activities. Community service activities are very important in helping you build the interpersonal skills you will need as a pharmacist.

The Bloomington Volunteer Network can link you with opportunities to get involved.

Student activities #

Through participation in student activity groups, you can learn valuable skills in the planning and implementing of projects. You can develop interpersonal and leadership skills not just in roles that carry a leadership title, but whenever you take on responsibility for some aspect of a project or event. When you are helping others achieve their goals, you are behaving with leadership.

To find opportunities to work with your peers, go to beINvolved.

Later when you apply to pharmacy schools, they will be interested to know the following: What did you gain through volunteering? How did volunteering or participating in that organization change you? Why was the experience important or meaningful to you?

When choosing how to volunteer consider this question: “If you had the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?”  Depending on your answer – whether it is ending hunger, eliminating poverty, reducing the stigma of mental illness, or something else – think about a way in which you could work to make a small difference in the lives of others in your community. For some advice on how to do that, come meet with a HPPLC advisor!

Keeping a prehealth journal #

A pre-health journal is a useful tool for reflecting on your interests and preparing for the admissions process. You can begin a file on your computer or start keeping a notebook as a journal. Use it to record any thoughts about your interest in healthcare, and pharmacy in particular. You could write about the experiences that initially sparked your interest in healthcare, or more recent experiences that confirmed a career in pharmacy is the right fit for you.

You may find that when you sit down to write, you start out with one thought, which leads to another thought and then another, and you find that you have thought about something that you never thought about before. Often you will get more out of activities if you spend some time writing about them and reflecting upon what you have experienced.

Keeping a pre-health journal of reflections throughout your clinical and volunteering experiences can help you later when it comes time to write essays for your pharmacy school application and prepare for admissions interviews.