It isn’t enough to think outside the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box.
Reflecting on my pharmacy career, my path was never traditional. I started pharmacy school a couple of years later than a traditional student and started residency a year after graduating pharmacy school. While a pharmacy student, I created and worked on different projects that led to wonderful developments within my school’s student organizations. These projects also led to many state and national awards and recognitions, expanded the role of student pharmacists across the Houston community, and allowed me to teach others about ways to push the profession forward.
Now, as I complete the next step in my career, I have continued to learn that the best things tend to happen when you become innovative and start acting outside the box. Below are some of my tips and experiences:
1. Create your own path (shared governance).
At the end of my infectious disease rotation, my preceptor shared the following quotation by Albert Einstein: “Strive not to be of success, but of value.” I love this quote because it changed my perspective on life and helped me find ways to be of value. Then I asked myself, “How can I bring my personality and skills to further develop myself and others?” To achieve this, I have learned that you have to act outside the box and find opportunities that showcase your value and allow you to create your own path. For example, during residency, the first opportunity I found was with pharmacy month. We were going through a new COVID-19 wave, and I wanted to bring something to the pharmacy department that would increase employee morale. I felt like pharmacy week was the perfect excuse. So I met with our shared governance team and volunteered to help out. Because Friends had been one of my favorite TV shows while growing up in the 90s, I made the pharmacy week theme “Friends.” I pitched the idea to the team, and they loved it. I used my creative skills to convert the pharmacy area into a Monica’s apartment and created fun weekly activities. Everyone enjoyed the pharmacy week festivities and talked about them for months.
This activity in turn allowed me to develop my role as a PGY1 in shared governance. This is not mandatory for the resident, but I have found it very valuable and educational. I have been able to help out in subsequent projects that have come up during the year, learn about my team members’ needs, and figure out ways to assist them. I believe these unique experiences will help me become a great future pharmacy leader.
2. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
One of my favorite rotations was in surgery. At first, however, this rotation challenged me to become comfortable with situations I had never encountered. Before starting the rotation, I told myself that I was only going to do what the residents before me had done. I would round, work the queue, provide my interventions, call it a day, and repeat. It was during a busy season in residency, and I felt this would be okay. However, this thought went down the drain the first day during rounds as I remembered my preceptor’s wise words:
You have two choices in this rotation: you can do what everyone else does and pass, or you can really immerse yourself in the experience and make a difference. Residency is what you make of it and the only way to grow is to take in as much as you can.
This really resonated with me. I wanted to pass the rotation, but I also realized I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to leave the rotation knowing that the providers would remember me as “Amilda, that great resident” – not just another resident passing through. During the first day of rounds, I quickly saw experiences where I could really immerse myself. Once, when the team was separated, I went into a patient room with just the provider. During this encounter, the provider had to perform dressing changes. We had discussed the medications, I had given my interventions, and the provider was ready to make the dressing changes. I called for the nurse to come in to assist, but the nurse was busy helping another patient. Because we still had several other patients to see, time was of the essence. I have never done wound dressing changes. It was something new, uncomfortable, and foreign to me. I also knew that this was not part of the “job description” and I was not required to help, but at that moment, this did not matter to me. What I saw was that I was a health care provider with a patient in need. I put my computer down, put on gloves, and told the provider I was there to help. Together, we made the dressing changes and helped care for the patient. This exhilarating experience set the tone for my relationship with the team for the rest of the experience. Had I not acted outside the box in this experience, I would have not loved this rotation as much as I did, nor would I have represented pharmacy well and created relationships with the team.
3. Ideas are great, but action is what makes the difference (social media campaign).
Throughout life and during residency, I have learned that action brings ideas to life. One of the ideas I had coming into the program was to develop a social media presence for the system. I felt this was something that could bring value and allow us to connect with others in this new virtual world. Although I was very excited for the idea, I knew that, if it were to come to life, I would need to take the initiative and get the ball rolling.
Working with others, our initial goal was to have everything live by September 2020, but because of the magnitude of the effect we wanted to have, we realized that we needed to get additional parties involved and extend our timeline. Fast forward, we were able to get all the appropriate stakeholders involved and bring the request to the marketing department. This past week, we were told that we had been approved for its creation! The page is scheduled to go live soon, and I cannot wait to see how it will look. This social media page will encompass all 16 residency programs in the system and will continue for many years after we complete the residency. This is a great example of how you can take your ideas and make them a reality. As you progress through your residency, don’t limit yourself. Really use this time to invest in yourself and unlock your full potential.
Acting outside the box and going the extra mile can be time-consuming and tiring, but the rewards at the end will make everything worth it. The next time you get an idea for something that would be beneficial to your organization, program, and/or patients, take the chance and put it into action. Innovation is what keeps us relevant and moving forward.
About the author:
Amilda Medina is a first-year health-system pharmacy administration and leadership (HSPAL) resident at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Besides her love for leadership, academia, and mentoring, she loves to crochet and travel and recently developed a new love for hiking.