ASHP InterSections ASHP InterSections

July 26, 2021

For P1s, Getting Involved with ASHP is Key to Success

Lisa Lubsch, Pharm.D., rounds with student pharmacists.

TAKE IT FROM EXPERIENCED PHARMACISTS: getting involved early on with professional organizations like ASHP is crucial to building a successful career and enjoying all that the profession has to offer.

“Engaging with ASHP as a first-year (P1) pharmacy student allows them to explore more career paths, take on leadership roles within the organization and develop skills that will benefit them in post-graduate training and throughout their careers,” said Lauren Pamulapati, Pharm.D., assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Pharmacy in Richmond.

Free Membership to P1 Students

Starting in 2020, ASHP has waived the membership fee for P1 students, making it easy for P1s to dive deeper into the field of health-system pharmacy. Members gain access to a host of resources to help them prepare for residency, investigate potential careers, and build an effective CV. Benefits like daily email briefings and podcasts also keep members abreast of pharmacy and healthcare news. Summer internship opportunities and networking and leadership possibilities can help pave the way for professional growth.

Dr. Pamulapati, who advises students and residents and serves on the ASHP Society of Student Health-System Pharmacists (SSHP) Advisory Panel, said she has found that students who get involved in professional organizations early on benefit more from advanced learning opportunities.

“I’ve noticed that students who actively participate in their local ASHP societies tend to feel more prepared for the post-graduate training application process, and they have a good idea of where they want to go because they have often already looked into career opportunities using ASHP resources,” said Dr. Pamulapati.

Moreover, networking through ASHP can give students a competitive edge when applying for a residency, she added. Dr. Pamulapati recalls being a student member of ASHP herself and being told that “pharmacy is a small world.”

“It was not until I was in residency and practicing that I realized how small it truly is, so I recommend to all my students that putting yourself out there early on and building a network helps you develop more quickly and fully as a professional,” said Dr. Pamulapati.

Benefits of ASHP Membership

Lisa Lubsch, Pharm.D., a longstanding ASHP member and clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy, said there are “outstanding benefits to getting involved with ASHP early in pharmacy school.” For example, she said, students can access internship and leadership opportunities, like joining an ASHP committee, advisory group, or council.

Jerika Lam, Pharm.D., pictured with Prashanti Alekal, M.D., provides student pharmacists with experiential education opportunities.

“Becoming a leader enhances your own professional development and can help you find and cultivate a relationship with a mentor,” said Dr. Lubsch, who said she has built her own network of colleagues and collaborators through ASHP.

One of Dr.  Lubsch’s students, who is now completing her P2 year, is a case study in how participation in an organization like ASHP can lead to a cascade of growth opportunities. After taking advantage of the complimentary P1 ASHP membership, the student, in short order, became the P1 liaison for her SSHP and began developing a professional network. The student also completed an ASHP Summer Internship and then became President-elect of the school’s SSHP.

“I’m eager to hear all about her internship and watch her take on more leadership roles,” said Dr. Lubsch.

This student may be exceptionally ambitious, but all P1 students can expect to come across opportunities for growth and leadership if they join ASHP, Dr. Lubsch said.

“Not only will they have the chance to learn about careers in the acute and ambulatory care settings, but the students will also gain an earlier understanding of the residency process and will be better able to prepare for it,” she added.

A Multitude of Networking Opportunities

ASHP member Jerika Lam, Pharm.D., associate professor at Chapman University School of Pharmacy in Irvine, California, hopes P1 students take advantage of the free ASHP membership and get “the same positive experience I had when I was a pharmacy student member of ASHP.”

“An ASHP membership will connect the student to the ASHP community and social network, which is huge!” Dr. Lam enthused.

Dr. Lam is the faculty adviser of her school’s ASHP-SSHP and works with student leaders to organize social and professional functions, including networking events with pharmacy managers from large health systems and pharmacist leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

“These events always energize Chapman pharmacy students as they move towards their residency and fellowship post-graduate training programs,” said Dr. Lam.

Lauren Pamulapati, Pharm.D., counsels a patient.

Apart from residency-focused activities, Dr. Lam said P1 ASHP members have the chance to engage their political muscles by participating in advocacy campaigns and student-focused activities like the annual Clinical Skills Competition, and they can pursue scholarship opportunities.

These days, Dr. Lam enjoys participating in ASHP’s clinical sections, dropping in on conversations covering a range of topics, from COVID-19 vaccination efforts to drug shortages, and discussions around policies and protocols that affect patient care and safety.

“ASHP has a treasure trove of expert and specialist pharmacists who can be easily connected with through the clinical sections and other forums,” noted Dr. Lam.

Dr. Lam said her own early participation in ASHP’s student forum community informed her career choices and led to opportunities to work with pharmacy leaders across the country. The benefits of networking through ASHP have continued throughout her career, and she regularly learns about models of best practices from other institutions, Dr. Lam said.

“ASHP is a very large organization, but its community is close-knit, and the interactions are professional and personable,” Dr. Lam noted.

The way VCU’s Dr. Pamulapati sees it, joining ASHP is not only beneficial for members, allowing them to enjoy professional and academic perks — it is an act of service to the entire pharmacy profession.

“The future of our profession is in the hands of student pharmacists and new practitioners, and we need them to share their perspectives and help shape policies and create new initiatives,” said Dr. Pamulapati. “I think students should dive feet first into an organization, apply for leadership positions early on and take risks. You may not feel qualified at first but know that your voice is so valued.”

 

By David Wild

June 9, 2021

Pharmacy Mentor Helps Black Student Pharmacists and Practitioners Reach Their Potential

Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S., volunteers his time to help those in his community.

THE ROAD TOWARD GREATER DIVERSITY, inclusion, and equity is long, but Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S., clinical pharmacy manager for ambulatory services at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is committed to seeing it through as best as he can.

Helping the Underrepresented

Dr. Blackwell has spent the better part of the last decade helping underserved pharmacists move up in their careers. In 2013, during his pharmacy studies, he took on leadership positions at the Student National Pharmacy Association (SNPhA), an organization dedicated to serving the underserved. Dr. Blackwell started off as his chapter’s president but quickly rose to oversee all SNPhA chapters in the Midwest and ultimately became National President.

“I had the honor of helping the organization home in on their mission by creating innovative programs and opportunities to serve and strengthen communities,” said Dr. Blackwell, an ASHP member since 2011.

One initiative he worked on was the Prescription for Service competition, a collaboration with Walmart and Sam’s Club, which provides scholarships to pharmacy students based on projects they develop to help the underserved in their community.

“I’ll never forget the winners of the very first competition, in 2013,” Dr. Blackwell said. That project was done by pharmacy students at Howard University and led to a partnership between the University and the Capitol City Pharmacy Medical Reserves Corps, in which the school manages outreach efforts to local student organizations, including wellness fairs and scholarship opportunities. Another winning project Dr. Blackwell is particularly proud of was developed by pharmacy students at Texas A&M University and included a cleanup of a community park and a mural painted on a nearby basketball court to help promote equity and inclusion.

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S.

After strengthening his leadership chops at SNPhA, Dr. Blackwell co-founded the Pharmacy Initiative Leaders (PILs), a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering underrepresented individuals and “helping them, through authentic support and connection, succeed at every stage of their pharmacy journey,” he said.

“A key to the organization’s success has been creating a culture of community and going out and really cultivating and amplifying people’s strengths, particularly those who may not have an advanced education or the greatest financial resources,” said Dr. Blackwell.

Recently, he and his colleagues at PILs addressed vaccine hesitancy in Black communities through a webinar open to the public.

“When I got the COVID-19 vaccine myself, I had reactions from family ranging from, ‘I’m so happy for you, how’re you feeling?’ to, ‘Are they trying to kill you with the vaccine?’” Dr. Blackwell said, pointing to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study as an event that spawned suspicion in Black communities regarding the motives of healthcare institutions and public health campaigns.

While historical suspicions are understandable, “People who hold on to fears based on news and social media find it hard to see the positive impact COVID-19 vaccination can have on the community,” Dr. Blackwell said.

To mitigate the impact of these fears, he and his co-presenters explained how COVID-19 vaccines work, answered questions about these medications and about the disease, and highlighted that vaccination is important for all, including Black communities.

Navigating Widespread Biases

Dr. Blackwell’s passion for helping Black pharmacy students and practitioners reach their potential was sparked when, as a student, he faced his own race-based barriers.

“As a black male at a predominantly white institution, people assumed I played football just because a lot of African American males at the university did,” said Dr. Blackwell. In other instances, he faced microaggressions, such as being told that he was “surprisingly articulate.”

Rather than taking these slights to heart, Dr. Blackwell transformed their energy into a stronger resolve to serve his community and reach greater heights. “I’ve always tried to be an example so that other people that look like me try and have a seat at the table, along with the many other underrepresented groups out there,” he said.

Divya Varkey, Pharm.D., M.S., clinical associate professor at University of Houston College of Pharmacy, has been one of Blackwell’s most admired mentors. She said Dr. Blackwell “epitomizes the idea of ‘paying it forward,’ and his passion is easy to see when it comes to providing guidance, support, and mentorship to those around him.”

“His goal for those around him is simply stated: to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be the best version of themselves,” Dr. Varkey said. “To that end, as a mentor himself, Dr. Blackwell spends countless hours working with mentees to help them cultivate their own definition of success and then – and most importantly – connects them to opportunities to achieve those goals.”

ASHP and Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Blackwell recently served on ASHP’s Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), where he helped develop recommendations on marketing and advocacy. The recommendations range from calling on ASHP to provide scholarships to Black, Indigenous, and persons of color (BIPOC) to asking the organization to spotlight the accomplishments of BIPOC students.

“To make all pharmacists feel that ASHP is their home, they need to see themselves playing a role within the organization, and marketing and awareness of ASHP opportunities is one way to get more people at the table,” Dr. Blackwell said, adding that by virtue of taking on leadership roles – including currently serving as a member of ASHP’s House of Delegates  –  he believes he has helped further the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Having a seat at the table is so important because it inspires others who look like me to go further, ultimately giving them more of a voice and expanding the conversation to include other viewpoints,” said Dr. Blackwell.

He is hopeful the DEI Task Force recommendations will help chip away at society-wide racial inequality and urged ASHP members to review and reflect on the recommendations as well as the actions ASHP takes to address health disparities.

“And be a voice within your state affiliates for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” Dr. Blackwell urged. “While work at the national level is critical, it all starts at the state level.”

 

By David Wild

November 12, 2020

Tips for Students: Getting the Most Out of the 2020 Midyear Meeting

Marissa Chow, a fourth year Pharm.D. candidate at St. Louis College of Pharmacy

WITH SOME ADVANCE PLANNING AND PREPARATION, students will find this year’s virtual Midyear Clinical Meeting as enlightening and productive as the in-person meetings of previous years. The meeting is loaded with student programming, so attendees like Marissa Chow, a fourth year Pharm.D. candidate at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, are getting down to work preparing for a few jam-packed days of education, networking, and interviews.

“Since in-person meetings will most likely not happen due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be even more important to chat with the right people at this year’s Midyear,” said Chow.

Preparation is key

Her preparation includes looking through the ASHP Midyear’s student-specific programming, which will be offered both in on-demand and simu-live formats. Residency-focused student sessions will cover all aspects of residency applications and interviews, ranging from navigating the PhORCAS application system to understanding the Match Algorithm. Professional development student sessions will aim to help students of all classes explore post-graduate opportunities and personal success topics like branding and financial guidance.

As with every year, the ASHP virtual residency showcase will give students a chance to interact with residency programs, learn more about what they have to offer, and narrow down their options prior to applications. Additionally, the Personnel Placement Service (PPS), free to all fourth-year student registrants through advance sign up, will provide an opportunity for dedicated interviews and one-on-one time.

Chow said she is already researching programs that are participating in this year’s residency showcase and writing down criteria and questions ahead of time to help her evaluate programs.

Advice for first-timers

One piece of advice Chow had for students attending the Midyear for the first time is to map out where they want to go ahead of time and to read and learn about the virtual platform prior to the meeting, “so you aren’t scrambling to find the next item to attend and there are no technical errors.”

“And consider finding a “Midyear Buddy” to support each other for meetings, residency talks, and even PPS,” Chow said.

Elizabeth King, Pharm.D.

Students should also work with their preceptors and professors ahead of time to make sure they can dedicate time to the meeting, said Elizabeth King, Pharm.D., who graduated from pharmacy school in 2018 and is now a hematology/oncology pharmacist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

“When we attend in person, there is a natural separation from other responsibilities so we can focus on the meeting, but this may not be the case in the virtual setting,” Dr. King said.

Students should carve out a time and space with minimal distractions and dress as if they were attending the conference in person, “to get yourself in the right mindset,” she recommended. “And just like in person, you will need breaks so don’t be afraid to walk away from the screen,” she added.

Although the meeting is chock-full of student programming, Dr. King suggested attending at least one new practitioner session and one pharmacist session.

“If students have a clinical area they’re interested in, it’s a great idea to attend some of the clinical sessions on that topic to hear about how clinical practice is changing,” she said, noting that the virtual format means attendees can spend more time viewing posters and listening in on sessions and less time “shuttling between locations.”

Another reason to venture outside of student programming is to get a better sense of the faculty at an institution where one might apply for a residency, Dr. King said.

“You can get an idea of what the people you will be learning from are like and what their academic passions are, which also gives you talking points for interviews,” she said.

Dr. King recommended actively participating in sessions by asking questions. If there are private messaging options, contacting others to network can help you connect with people who have similar interests, she added. “Also make sure also to build up your profile on ASHP and PPS so that others can find you based on your interests and reach out to you,” Dr. King said.

Residency search

Younger students interested in learning about the residency process should attend the PhORCAS session to find out what programs are looking for in residency candidates, Dr. King said.

“Knowing this can help you set your priorities so that you end up getting to where you want to be academically,” Dr. King said. “The earlier you can start thinking about and preparing for residency, the better.”

For residency applicants, it’s a good idea to formulate a set of criteria that can help decide on a program and also to formulate questions tailored to that specific institution, Dr. King advised.

Nelly Adel, Pharm.D., BCOP, BCPS, supports her student during an ASHP Midyear meeting poster presentation.

“These questions can help you understand the culture of the institution, the educational offerings they have, or explore key non-negotiable items that you want in a residency,” she said.

As a residency recruiter herself, Nelly Adel, Pharm.D., BCOP, BCPS, chair of the department of pharmacy practice and associate professor in oncology, Touro College of Pharmacy, New York, appreciates when residency candidates distinguish themselves from others in the candidate pool.

“Ask questions that are not answered on the program’s website,” she recommended. “For example, I like to be asked about projects that I have worked on with students or residents and that have made a difference.”

Dr. Adel also recommended highlighting co- and extra-curricular activities and volunteer work. “I speak with 20-30 candidates a day and it’s sometimes hard to remember each one.  This can help to separate you from your peers,” she said.

Virtual etiquette

One thing Dr. Adel emphasized is to approach the Midyear with professionalism. “Even though the meeting is virtual, the same rules as in-person meetings hold,” she said. She encouraged students to wear professional attire, find a room without visual distractions in the background, smile when speaking to others or presenting a poster, and to not be “sitting or lounging at your bed.”

“There’s also no reason to be late for a meeting or a presentation, particularly when it’s virtual,” she said. “So become familiar with the platforms you’ll be using by playing around with them ahead of time. This could help avoid technical glitches and delays.”

Having attended and hosted numerous virtual meetings herself, Dr. Adel said student presenters and residency applicants should look straight into their computer’s camera rather than at the picture on the monitor.  “This helps you connect better with the person in front of you,” she said. Another technical consideration to keep in mind is the possible lag time during remote conversations, Dr. Adel added.

“Avoid interrupting the other person by waiting for the end of their sentence,” she said. “If you want to interject, find the right moment and know how to interrupt without being offensive. That holds true whether it’s a live or a virtual meeting.”

Despite the checklist of considerations that students should keep in mind prior to this year’s Midyear, Chow, the student pharmacist, is enthusiastic about the potential of the meeting.

“I’m excited to attend this year’s meeting!” she said. “Although this is not the traditional format or the format that most people would have wanted for the Midyear, as the pharmacy profession as a whole has shown, we are good at adapting to change.”

 

By David Wild

October 19, 2020

ASHP Members Highlight the Value of Board Certification

Katie Hughes, Pharm.D., BCPPS

WHEN SNEHAL BHATT, PHARM.D., BCPS, was going through pharmacy school and residency training, he noticed that the pharmacists and mentors he looked up to most all were board certified. So when he completed his training in 2001, he pursued his board certification in pharmacotherapy to achieve expertise in pharmacy practice and emulate those who inspired him.

Professional benefits

Dr. Bhatt, a clinical pharmacist in cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and an ASHP member since 1999, said this distinction comes in handy on a daily basis.

“Most of my patients have a variety of other disease states and comorbidities that aren’t necessarily cardiology-related, and that’s an area where I have just as important an impact in patient care,” said Dr. Bhatt, who also is a professor of pharmacy practice at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University. “While I certainly help with recommending medications for patients’ primary cardiovascular problems, I often find myself having to help the team with non-cardiovascular medications, too. Being well-rounded as a pharmacist and well-versed in a variety of drug therapy options outside of your specialty is essential to pharmacy practice.”

Being well-versed in your field is just one of the professional benefits pharmacists can reap from becoming board-certified, said Angela Bingham, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCNSP, BCCCP, FASPEN,  an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is also a clinical pharmacist in the medical/surgical intensive care units at Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, N.J.

Angela Bingham, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCNSP, BCCCP, FASPEN

She and other pharmacists enjoy the validation of their clinical knowledge and competency beyond licensing requirements, she says. There also can be financial incentives related to salary, promotions, and new practice opportunities that emerge. With a seed grant from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), Dr. Bingham and one of her residents are investigating the prevalence and value of board certification among pharmacy practice faculty at colleges and schools of pharmacy in the United States. A previous survey indicated that one of the most important benefits identified by participants was gaining personal satisfaction by accomplishing professional goals that were important to them.

Advanced practice opportunities

Dr. Bingham is board certified in three areas: pharmacotherapy, nutrition support, and critical care, and now works with ASHP on the critical care review and recertification programs. She first pursued pharmacotherapy board certification as a PGY-2 critical care pharmacy resident, then pursued certification in nutrition support and in critical care as those emerged as areas of passion and specialization for her after she completed a residency.

“It really impressed me that board certification is a gold standard for determining which pharmacists are qualified to contribute to advanced practice roles,” said Dr. Bingham, an ASHP member for 14 years. “I also was impressed by the rigorous processes BPS uses to help ensure that board certified pharmacists are trained to meet the expectations of interprofessional health care teams and saw specialization as an opportunity to improve patient outcomes. I was drawn to the complex, evolving nature of critically ill patients and the team structure of care within the ICU environment, which led me down this path.”

Improving confidence and becoming an expert in pediatric care inspired Katie Hughes, Pharm.D., BCPPS, to pursue board certification in pediatric pharmacy. Dr. Hughes had a long interest in working with children but found that she needed much more information during a pediatrics rotation in pharmacy school.

“It was overwhelming from a clinical and emotional/social perspective,” said Dr. Hughes, who now works with the pediatric ICU at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis, as well as the burn and rehabilitation units. “I realized that a lot of the kids we were seeing then weren’t the textbook kids we looked at in school. They were different sizes, had different volumes of distribution, had different clearance rates, their organs were totally different, and we didn’t have black and white guidelines to tell us what to do.”

Dr. Hughes, an ASHP member since 2012, said she did appreciate helping patients through their illnesses and watching their incredible ability to bounce back and recover. When BPS introduced the pediatrics pharmacy board certification during her PGY-2 year, she jumped on it. She attended ASHP’s board prep meeting as part of her training. Now, Dr. Hughes helps ASHP develop curricula for its board recertification.

“The medical profession has some imposter syndrome, and I don’t think that’s uncommon in pharmacy either,” she said. “You want to make sure you know what you’re doing, and sometimes you’re hesitant because you don’t have that confidence. The board certification helped me with that, and making sure I was taking the best care of patients I could.”

Certification offerings

BPS recognizes 14 pharmacy specialties, of which ASHP has available resources, including review courses, for nine currently: Ambulatory care pharmacy, critical care pharmacy, cardiology pharmacy, compounded sterile preparations pharmacy, geriatric pharmacy, infectious diseases pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pediatric pharmacy, and pharmacotherapy. Soon, ASHP and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) will offer a review package for the transplant pharmacist exam, including an online review course and practice exam.

ASHP and ACCP also partner to provide resources for the Ambulatory Care, Cardiology, Geriatric, Infectious Diseases, and Oncology specialties.

Whether to pursue board certification always will be a personal decision, Dr. Bhatt said. There are so many specialty areas now board-certified that it allows every practitioner to find their own home.

“For anyone who really has a desire to stay as advanced in their practice, and as broad-based and up-to-date as you can, board certification is one of the best ways to do so because it’s a very structured environment, and you know you’re getting high-quality education from your peers in terms of what matters for pharmacy practice,” he said.

ASHP programs

Dr. Bhatt originally had to make his own study guides from reading textbook chapters, guidelines, and primary literature. But more recently, while pursuing recertification, he has taken advantage of ASHP’s continuing education programs. Many of ASHP’s activities offer dual recertification credit for pharmacists with more than one specialty credential.

“There are several ways I can get board certification credits through ASHP throughout the year,” he said. “It allows us to fit those activities into our schedules in a convenient fashion so we can maintain our board certification without being intrusive to our day-to-day practices or family lives.”

Board certification is “certainly a commitment that can’t be taken lightly,” added Dr. Bingham. “But it can ultimately be very professionally rewarding.”

By Karen Blum

# # #

April 9, 2020

Important Wins on the Advocacy Front in the Fight Against COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

AS THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO ESCALATE ACROSS THE COUNTRY, there is increased urgency to ensure that frontline pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and our healthcare partners have the medications and equipment they need to successfully treat their patients. ASHP continues to spearhead multiple advocacy efforts that support your ability to provide the best care possible for those in need.

Mitigating shortages of critical medications like propofol, fentanyl, midazolam, paralytics, and others remains a high priority. We continue to engage with relevant federal agencies to improve access to medications. I am pleased to report that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken critical actions in direct response to ASHP’s advocacy efforts.

ASHP, in coordination with the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Association for Clinical Oncology, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, sent a letter last week to the DEA requesting an immediate increase in the annual production quota allocations for Schedule II controlled substances. This would enable manufacturers and 503B outsourcing facilities to increase the supply of opioids critical to the care of COVID-19 patients on ventilators. As a direct result of this collaborative advocacy effort, the DEA announced yesterday that it is taking immediate actions to address this critical issue. These actions include increasing the annual production quota for controlled substances, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, that are used for the treatment of mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients, and increasing the amount of ketamine, diazepam, and other controlled substances that can be imported into the United States.

We also sent a letter to the FDA advocating for regulatory flexibility in compounding drugs in shortage and compounding in hospitals. ASHP’s advocacy efforts, including significant staff engagement on the issue, directly triggered the FDA to clarify existing compounding guidance, including the removal of the one-mile radius requirement for hospitals compounding medications. FDA’s quick action to reduce regulatory hurdles for health systems is an important step to help clarify compounding guidance during this crisis.

ASHP will continue to advocate for additional compounding flexibility, including the expansion of FDA’s drug shortage list to include products ASHP has identified as in shortage. We will also continue to seek 503B outsourcing facility flexibility, particularly for hospital-owned or affiliated 503B operations, to help ensure they can meet hospitals’ medication needs.

Yesterday, we were pleased to see that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authorized pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests pursuant to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The authorization is responsive to the joint COVID-19 recommendations we created with other national organizations. While this authorization does not address pharmacist reimbursement, we are encouraged to see HHS providing pharmacists with a greater role in supporting the COVID-19 response, and we continue to work on that issue.

We also continue to actively advocate for Congress to recognize pharmacists as providers in the Medicare program to further support the COVID-19 response and beyond. Yesterday, ASHP and 11 other national organizations sent a letter requesting that Congress immediately support legislation that would establish pharmacists as providers in Medicare Part B on an emergency basis to provide COVID-19 and flu testing. This authority is an important step in being able to rapidly expand access to testing across our country to support the national response to this crisis. We also see this as a step toward expanded recognition of pharmacists by payers, including Medicare.

Finally, ASHP is also working with our members and other stakeholders to gain access to medications from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Most recently, we joined with several organizations to request that FEMA immediately release all available quantities of a number of critical drugs from the SNS to the New York and New Jersey Departments of Health to address urgent patient care needs. We are also working to support other state affiliates and members across the country with these important requests.

ASHP and its government relations team will continue to work tirelessly with our collaborating partners to ensure that U.S. regulatory authorities are responding to the current needs of pharmacists and healthcare providers.

While our collective attention is on the needs of frontline practitioners, I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight some positive news about the newest members of our profession. ASHP’s 2020 Residency Match concluded this week, and I want to congratulate the 5,269 future pharmacists who matched with 2,551 PGY1 and PGY2 pharmacy residency programs across the country. This number represents a 46% increase in the number of available positions over the past five years – a remarkable rate of growth. I am pleased that our accredited residency programs have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to training during the pandemic. While managing multiple critical priorities, these programs continued to interview applicants virtually. This undoubtedly will be a unique time during which to begin a residency program regardless of its focus. ASHP is committed to ensuring that these young practitioners and their programs have the needed resources to successfully conduct critically important resident training this year and beyond.

In the same vein, please know that ASHP stands ready to offer you and your healthcare colleagues that same level of steadfast support. In addition to advocating to give you access to critical medications, ASHP continues to update and create new resources and tools that can be found on our COVID-19 Resource Center. We have also opened access to many evidence-based online resources and tools on ashp.org, making them widely available to all pharmacists and the broader healthcare community.

Over the last few weeks, I have heard countless stories from members and others about the challenges they are facing, but I’ve also heard many stories of hope and heroism. I, and David Chen, ASHP assistant vice president for Pharmacy Leadership and Planning, have listened in on calls from pharmacy leaders at major health systems in New York City, the pandemic’s current epicenter. We are incredibly impressed by how these leaders have shared their information and experiences and how they support each other and their frontline staff. This is a tremendous example of how peer-to-peer connection and communication can aid in the pandemic response. Their experiences and willingness to share their stories will undoubtedly help others in responding to COVID-19 in facilities across the country. We applaud them for these efforts.

Please also know that ASHP is here to support your well-being, which should remain a priority for all healthcare personnel during this challenging time. Please make sure that you are taking care of yourself and your family.

“ASHP has our backs.” These are the words of a member who recently reached out to us. This really resonated with me, and I can assure you that we will continue to work across all fronts, leveraging our talented staff, our valued partners, and our amazing members to provide you with the information, connections, and resources you need today and in the future.

Thank you for everything you do for your patients and the profession.

Sincerely,

Paul

May 14, 2019

Mindfulness and Improv Help Pharmacy Students Cope with Burnout

Anne Graff LaDisa, Pharm.D., BCPS, uses improv to teach student pharmacists about effective communication skills.

IN A QUIET LOW-LIT CLASSROOM, students sit comfortably with their eyes closed and their spines straight. They bring attention to their breathing and imagine that they have a balloon in their stomachs. Every time they breathe in, the balloon inflates. Every time they breathe out, the balloon deflates. With every exhale, the students imagine their daily stresses and frustrations floating away. This isn’t a mindfulness retreat at some hideaway resort or the calming conclusion of a power yoga class. It’s a pharmacy course at the Concordia University-Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, where two professors are teaching students to use mindfulness to cope with burnout both during school and throughout their future careers.

According to Christina Martin, Pharm.D., M.S., Director of Membership Forums for ASHP, pharmacist burnout is a serious concern. A 2018 study published in AJHP reported that more than half of health-system pharmacists surveyed felt a high degree of burnout. In addition, a recent salary survey found that two-thirds of pharmacists experienced increased job stress over the previous year, and that 72 percent said workloads increased from the year before.

“When healthcare providers feel stressed, it can also have an impact on their patients,” said Dr. Martin. Burnout is associated with more medical errors and poorer patient safety outcomes, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “We really have to care for the caregiver and ensure that we’re providing resources and support to those who are caring for patients in very chaotic healthcare times,” she added.

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Elizabeth Buckley, Pharm.D., CDE

Elizabeth Buckley, Pharm.D., CDE, Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Concordia University-Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, often includes the balloon-in-the-stomach exercise in her classes. She first introduced it while teaching a diabetes elective for third-year pharmacy students in the spring of 2017 — and she saw immediate changes. It made a huge difference “on attitude, on calmness, on collegiality,” she said.

It worked so well that in the fall of 2018, she added it to her weekly lectures in the Applied Patient Care I course, which is for first-year pharmacy students. “The tone of the class changed in a significant way. Everyone settled down and the discussion was more robust,” she said. “The mindfulness exercise centered me, and it centered the class.”

Dr. Buckley hopes that teaching pharmacy students mindfulness now will help them avoid burnout in the future. “If you’re going to be in a career where you care for other people, you have to figure out self-care in order to be good at being a clinician,” she said.

Improv Shakes Things Up

Anne Graff LaDisa, Pharm.D., BCPS, Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Concordia University-Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, began teaching an improvisational class to first-year students to help bolster communication and teamwork skills. Improv is a theatrical technique where the characters and dialog in scene or story are made up on the spot. Communication skills learned through improv can help a student become a good pharmacist, she noted. Although she didn’t introduce improv classes for pharmacy students with combating burnout in mind, she explained that improv exercises allow students to be creative and break up a school routine.

Anne Graff LaDisa, Pharm.D., BCPS

Dr. LaDisa began taking improv classes herself in 2003. When she discovered that medical schools were using improv to teach and improve medical students’ communications skills, she became intrigued — even more so when she learned that the University of Arizona has been using improv in its pharmacy school since 2004.

She introduced improv to an existing course in 2015, then taught her first stand-alone elective course for first-, second-, and third-year students in 2017. At the beginning of every class, she reviews the rules of improv, which include always saying “yes, and …” to what your partner is trying to communicate, emphasizing the here and now, being specific, and focusing on characters and relationships.

In Dr. LaDisa’s class, a two-person scene requires the students to follow the rules of improv and may involve a scenario unrelated to healthcare. After the students complete the improv exercise, she asks them questions about how they felt about the activity – what things they found challenging and what skills they felt they had to use to be successful. Finally, the students talk about how to apply those skills to clinical pharmacy practice.

Role-playing in a healthcare or social setting can help pharmacy students improve collaboration and teamwork skills. “Improv training gives students an advantage when it comes to communication, which is a critical skill for all pharmacists,” she said.

By Jen A. Miller

 

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