Story by Katherine Hunt
Photo submitted by Laura Minard
Drake is known for its pharmacy school, which to a non-major, could seem like an overwhelming and difficult curriculum. However, for pharmacy students, it’s not all homework and no play. Throughout a pharmacy student’s career, he or she has a multitude of opportunities to travel all over the globe and intern with pharmacies across the nation or even go on special pharmacy trips overseas to help the less fortunate.
P2 student Janelle Behnke was able to not only study abroad but also has held multiple pharmacy internships throughout her college career. Interning at Hy-Vee Pharmacy in two different locations, Behnke shared the importance of interning while being a pharmacy student.
“I think the biggest advantage to interning (as a pharmacy student) is getting the opportunity to exercise the knowledge and skills you learn in the classroom in a real practice setting,” Behnke said.
The benefits don’t just stop with real-world application. Other benefits include gaining experience to put on a resume and becoming more competitive against other pharmacy graduates when looking for a career after graduation.
P1 Caitlin Robertson also shares her favorite part about being a pharmacy intern.
“My favorite part is interacting with patients. Being able to answer patients’ questions and knowing you are helping them become healthier and live better quality lives is a very gratifying feeling,” Robertson said.
Having pharmacy internships is required for any pharmacy student. P1 through P3 students have time built into their schedules, named Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPE). Then, four students complete eight, 5-week rotations in several different pharmacy settings. These rotations are known as Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APE). The pharmacy school realizes that real-life applications are the best way to see how theories and principles learned in class apply to pharmacy practices across the globe. P4 Emily Kirkwold really enjoyed her rotations and appreciated everything, including the challenges that came her way.
“What I enjoyed most about my rotation was working directly with other healthcare providers to care for the patients be followed,” Kirkwold said. “Every morning, I did rounds with physicians, making verbal drug therapy recommendations. In the afternoon, I would enter chart notes into electronic medical records. I also enjoyed the challenges and opportunities to learn that came with my P4 rotations.”
While interning anywhere is exciting, an internship is still a job. Pharmacy internships are no different. In addition to knowing what medicines are which, there are extremely strict rules and laws to follow to ensure confidentiality and safety. Entering patient information onto a computer, confirming patient insurance, filling and labeling vials, double-checking prescriptions for accuracy, and printing off all the appropriate handouts and medicine information are just a few things that go into filling just one script or prescription. Robertson shares the hardest part of her current internship with Hy-Vee.
“Every insurance company has different rules, which can cause problems and can be really confusing. Just like in any job, it’s the technicalities that are not fun to deal with.”
Here are a couple pieces of advice to both pharmacy and other undergraduate students looking to pursue internships and/or study abroad.
To those looking to fit an abroad program into four or seven years, talk to professors. Ask other upperclassmen. Most likely, someone can point you in the right direction on what to do next. If pursuing an internship, use university given resources such as Career BluePrint or professors. Networking can be the difference between a mediocre internship and the internship of a lifetime.
Overall, just talk to other students who have already had the expensive interning or studying abroad. After all, they started at square one at one point and probably have helpful tips and advice to making the most out of an experience. Kirkwold said to communicate with preceptors or supervisors.
“You get out of your internship experience what you put in,” Kirkwold said. “I have found that most preceptors and supervisors are willing to work with you if you tell them your goals and expectations for the experience and are willing to ask for the experiences you’re looking for. I ended up working with medications I never learned about in pharmacy school … By taking initiative, I learned about the medications, gained public speaking skills, and taught others about some medications that were dispensed daily.”