91 days and 2 rotations until graduation

Rotation 4 was filled with ups and downs.  My most notable achievement was the potty-training of Peter.  Peter, Kathy, and I all agreed before MLK Day weekend that it was time to give potty training a good effort, so I decided to try the 3-day potty training method.  Saturday was a wet day with a lot of accidents, but we did manage to get urine in the potty 3 times (by scooping Peter up and plunking him on the toilet as soon as he started to have an accident).  We only got urine in the potty once on Sunday but at least that one success was a full success… the underwear stayed dry!  Things finally clicked on MLK Day, and the score at the end of the day was potty – 4, underwear – 1.  Peter is now doing great with peeing in the potty while awake – at home, at school, and in public.  Bowel movements need more work, but he has gotten his business in the toilet twice.  I think we will be in good shape with toileting by the time I graduate and we visit Vietnam.

And with that, I think we can return to pharmacy-related discussions.  Let’s start with the bad news.  I did have to wait the entire month of January to hear back from UMass, and when I did receive my e-mail from the program director, it did not contain an invitation to interview.  Obviously, I was and am very disappointed.  I love UMass and wanted to work my tail off as a resident in their pharmacy department.  I also did not want to commute 60 miles to my practice site every morning.  I did receive invitations to interview with 3 good residency programs: Baystate Medical Center, Hartford Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  I’m sure I could have a great residency experience at any of those programs, but I’ll have to spend about 2.5 hours every day traveling to and from those programs.  Compare that to 0.5 hour that it takes to travel to and from UMass, and it just looks like a lot of wasted time.  Hundred of hours of wasted time.  At least it will only be for one year.  (Though admittedly, that’s what I told myself last year when I signed on for the longitudinal APPE program at Baystate.)

On the positive side, I do have interviews with 3 great programs!  And I’m waitlisted for an interview at a fourth great program.  A number of my peers have not been nearly as lucky.   I don’t think any of us realized just how competitive  the residency application process is.  And at this point, it’s obvious to me that I underestimated the importance of pharmacy work experience to residency program directors.  My applications were pretty solid with some notable strengths: my research experience, my academic record, and my ability to successfully plan and coordinate projects.  My one real weakness is my lack of pharmacy work experience, and two pharmacy directors at Beth Israel pointed out that weakness quite explicitly during my interview.  I do wish that I had been able to get some work experience over the past couple years, but it just wasn’t possible to be a good wife, mother, and  student and to be involved in research and extracurricular activities and to put in a significant number of work hours.  I was optimistic that my strengths would overcome that one weakness.  Obviously, they did overcome my lack of work experience for half the programs I applied to.  But it wasn’t enough for the one program that I most wanted to be a part of.

My first interview was at Baystate.  It was enjoyable because I already knew most everyone who participated in the interview process.  I had to give a presentation about myself.  I think that my presentation successfully conveyed my personality, my strengths, my priorities, and my goals.  It was a difficult presentation to give, though, because I talked about Peter’s birth and NICU stay – my greatest failure and my greatest achievement.  There were a lot of behavioral interview questions.  There are a few questions that I wish I had answered differently, but I think the interview went well overall.  I left the interview with a new appreciation for the pharmacy leadership at Baystate and with confidence that I could have a great residency experience at Baystate.

My second interview was at BIDMC.  It was much less enjoyable for a number of reasons.  Perhaps most importantly, I was the only candidate at that all-day interview, and it was exhausting to be in the spotlight, trying to think of good questions to ask all day long.  The program director seemed nice and soft-spoken, but I couldn’t decipher whether she liked me and my answers to her questions or not.  And I was a bit turned off when she appeared to be falling asleep during my case presentation.  The interviewers mostly focused on questions that attempted to ascertain whether I was a good fit for their program.  I left the interview sort of feeling like I couldn’t be a good fit for the program unless I wanted to specialize in infectious disease and become a college faculty member.  I know that this is not true because most of their current residents do not plan to specialize in ID or teach, so I will try to keep the big picture in mind when it’s time to rank programs.  BIDMC does have great clinical preceptors and is strong in both critical care and oncology, the two areas of most interest to me.  They don’t have a completely electronic medical record, but what is electronic can be accessed from home.  And they have effectively decentralized their pharmacists.  Baystate, in comparison, appears to be only nominally decentralized.  On the other hand, Baystate was able to effectively communicate the value of the pharmacy residents to the department, whereas the BIDMC pharmacists seemed to be at a loss for words when I asked how residents contribute to the department.

My third interview will be at Hartford Hospital on Valentine’s Day.  Will it be love at first sight?  We will see.

My critical care rotation starts Monday.  Admittedly, I’m relieved to be done with my institutional rotation.  I saw a lot on this past rotation, but I don’t feel like I learned a lot.  It was a short rotation due to New Year’s, MLK Day, 2 snow days, and 2 interviews.  I only really enjoyed my 4 days at the D’Amour Cancer Center.  I was glad to spend 2 days in the NICU pharmacy, but the pharmacist was too busy to work with me, so I didn’t really learn anything.  I was glad to spend 4 days doing medication histories, but there was only enough work to keep me busy 3 out of the 4 days.  I did have 2 good days working with the pharmacist covering D3 (pediatric medicine).  The other days nearly bored me to tears; I didn’t feel like I was learning anything, and I didn’t feel like I was being productive.

I’m optimistic that my critical care rotation will keep me busy and teach me a lot.  Graduation poster day will be during the next rotation block, and my residency program rankings will be due during this block as well.  The last day of the rotation is Match Day.  Hopefully, it will be a happy day.

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