How to Prepare For Pharmacy School

Monday, May 08, 2017

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(Picture Taken at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown SD - Check out more of my photography at my VSCO)

Hey guys! As promised, this post will only contain pharmacy related material! I received a bunch of requests about what you guys would like to see on my blog! Practically all of you want to know what a typical day in the life of a student pharmacist entails however, each day is different. To address this, I will document what a typical WEEK looks like as a first year pharmacy student, P1, in Spring Quarter. I decided to wait until after midterms because if I did this beforehand, I would simply write about how much I procrastinate and cram before exams and how I take really, REALLY long naps. I will begin documenting this next week and I'll have everything up before June! For those of you who really want to know what goes in my life, follow along on my Instagram @adriennenguyenn. I upload Instagram Stories every day!

Another common request I got through emails and the mentor-mentee form involves the question,

What do you wish you knew before starting pharmacy school? 

The easiest way for me to lay out everything is by a list so scroll down to see what I recommend - these are in no particular order and they involve everything from classes, experiences and things to purchase.

Knowing the brand & generic name, along with the therapeutic class, indication and schedule will save you so much time before starting school. Depending on which program you ultimately decide to attend,  you'll be expected to memorize the top 100-200 prescribed drugs in America.  If you're currently a pharm tech, this will come easily to you. Unfortunately, I had NO pharmacy experience prior to school so I found it overwhelming to say the least.  Knowing this will already put you ahead of the game - you'll understand cases just by knowing the drug names and you'll be able to walk into  both your OSCE's and exams with more confidence! My Pharmacy Practice Final this coming June is cumulative so I am starting to brush up on all the drugs from the beginning of Fall Quarter up until now!

One of the requirements of pharmacy school is public speaking. Despite hating it at the time, I am so glad I enrolled in a class that forced me to speak during each class session. Improvisation was definitely one of my weakest areas but I have since improved - it helps immensely during your OSCE's. As I am finishing up my last quarter of my  P1 year, I've come to realize how important this skill is and mastering it takes effort. Not to worry though, if your communication skills aren't as exceptional as you would like it to be, you'll get loads of practice since a majority of your classes force you to speak in front of your peers via projects and group presentations. 

If you guys read any of my prior pharmacy posts, you'll know that I was accepted to all the schools I applied without ANY pharmacy experience. Even though I may be one of the few who entered the school without having a pharm tech license or any direct pharmacy experience whatsoever, I missed out on a great learning opportunity.  I'm glad I was able to enter pharmacy school based on my academic merits, research and interviewing ability however, I was put at a great disadvantage compared to my counterparts.  It's true you do not need any prior experience to succeed but I did have to put more time and effort into one particular class, Pharmacy Practice. All of my classes were straightforward since they involved math or chemistry but when it came to knowing scenarios, drugs, laws and how to deal with patients in Pharmacy Practice, I had to learn everything from scratch while some of my classmates were able to breeze through the class without batting an eye.

I'll dive deeper into this topic in a later post but I'm hoping you all developed some sort of study routine or habit during undergrad. All throughout my academic career, I found that I studied more efficiently in solitude. On my own schedule. Without any distractions. Without any communication. It worked for me up until pharmacy school. If you were like me before entering pharmacy school, you're probably thinking "studying in a group sucks because everyone just procrastinates, gets off topic and never gets anything done." That was my mentality because it occurred to me more than once.  But scratch that. Everyone you meet in pharmacy school has an ultimate end goal: to pass and/or get honors. There are some classes where studying alone is just impossible - the workload starts to consume you rapidly and there's just  no way you can take on everything by yourself (histology and gross anatomy). Sometimes it's better to study with someone else since you can quiz each other to see where your expertise lies and what areas need improvement. 

You might think you can keep everything straight in your head but you really can't in pharmacy school. I just barely figured out what class was what and it's already the 7th week of school. Many of your courses have similar names: Drug Information vs. Drug Informatics, and there are so many deadlines! I'm WAYYYY old school so I need to write things down in a hardcopy agenda. Although I love technology, I cannot deal with an electronic calendar. Keep yourself organized and on top of everything by investing in a good agenda/planner!

You might be wondering why I'm putting this on the list but you'll soon realize how little sleep you actually get as a student pharmacist. Sometimes it's because you're up cramming 6 weeks of lectures into one night before an exam, other times it's because you're required to work at Free Clinic until 10 or 11PM  or you just want to live it up a little without thinking about school. No matter what the reason, you'll find yourself desperately seeking sleep once school starts gaining momentum. SO SLEEP NOW, you've been warned!

Do not waste your summer trying to review Organic Chemistry or BioChem. A lot of people on Student Doctor Network (SDN) would disagree but I see no point in relearning the material. I didn't do any review and I was still able to get honors. You already have a basic foundation and you can review things you completely forgot when you're in class (SN2 reaction, huh?). You don't want to waste your precious brain cells on memorizing unnecessary mechanisms that will only be briefly covered in the course.  Each pharmacy program and professor has a set curriculum and list of objectives they want to  emphasize so trying to guess what's going to be covered prior to actually being in class is counterproductive.

What I suggest you guys to do is enjoy life before starting pharmacy school. Whether it's traveling, pigging out, spending time with friends and family, picking up new or old hobbies, just enjoy the summer one last time before committing yourself to pharmacy.


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