Up to the Challenge: PY4 Students Reflect on the Clinical Skills Competition

In October 2017, PY4 students Jessica and Sharon won the LLUSP local level ASHP/CSHP Clinical Skills Competition where nine teams of PY3 and PY4 students competed. From there, the ladies competed at the CSHP Clinical Skills Competition during the Seminar meeting in Las Vegas. They ranked in the middle of 10 competing teams from various California pharmacy schools. Their next competition will take place at the national level in December during the ASHP Midyear meeting in Orlando. Here, Jessica and Sharon reflect on their experiences in the competition.

Participating in the Clinical Skills Competition (CSC) at CSHP Seminar was a challenging yet exciting experience for the both of us. Working up patient cases is something we have always done in our classes, but presenting our patient in front of a panel of twelve pharmacists and answering complex questions on the spot were things that pushed us out of our comfort zones.

The patient cases during competitions are similar to cases students may experience in their therapeutic classes. Competing teams are given one patient who has multiple problems. The patient can have five problems or even ten problems, and the team’s job is to focus on the primary issue and assess the patient accordingly. Student competitors need to utilize their resources and organize their treatment plan well. Last, but not least, the team must be able to present its case professionally and be prepared for questions about its recommendations. The judges may or may not agree with the recommendations, but as aspiring pharmacists, student competitors will need to be able to justify their reasoning.

We got involved in the Loma Linda local competition last year as third year students, but we did not advance to the state level. Still, the experience we had that year helped us to prepare for the local and state competition this year, and we hope the experience we had at CSHP Seminar will help us for the national competition at ASHP Midyear in Orlando. What we’ve noticed from participating two years in a row is the significant difference between our P3 and P4 years in our clinical knowledge and ability to apply it.

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Even though past competitors informed us of how difficult this competition can be, we decided to enter the CSC both years for two reasons. First of all, we are interested in pursuing residencies, and we believe that this competition will prepare us to some extent for the challenges we may face in residency. Also, we wanted to face a challenge that would help us grow and become more well-rounded clinicians in the future. We’re learning how to respond to hard questions and how to handle uncomfortable situations. It is better to practice and make mistakes now than to make errors as a licensed pharmacist.

We encourage all students to participate in the CSC, although it is very tough to prepare for. You will need to be able to regurgitate what you already know and hope that your recommendations are appropriate. Most importantly, you will need to be able to present yourself professionally in front of the judges. Know how to use your resources, organize your thought process, and present your answers.

We have gained so much by participating in the CSC and hope that others will take the opportunity and turn it into something amazing. Good luck to future participants!

My first IPPE experience

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So, it just hit me that I’m done with my first year of pharmacy school! It has been some of the most fun I have ever had, though “fun” in the way that you run a Tough Mudder or “fun” in the way when you practice your music. It’s fun through accomplishment. All the stress and all the challenges have pushed me to become better and have helped me progress in understanding who I am and who I want to be.

One particular activity that really comes to mind in terms of my development as a pharmacist is my first-year IPPE (Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience) rotation, which is completed in a retail pharmacy setting. You know, the place where you think all the pharmacist does is put pills in a bottle (partly true)?

Key word: “partly”.

The genesis of my rotation was tough because everything was fresh like a raw kale salad: difficult to eat for the first time without dressing, but edible.  At first, I didn’t feel very comfortable starting out with such veterans as the current staff, nor did I know what my role in the pharmacy really was. Unlike many of my classmates who were licensed pharmacy technicians before coming to LLUSP, entering the pharmacy and having to do various duties without much prior experience made me feel like I was a newborn opening my eyes for the first time. Here is a sample scenario of my newbie experience:

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On Day 1, I was tasked to check expiration dates on medications and rubber band the “Return-To-Stock (RTS)” medications. I had no idea what RTS meant, so when told to consolidate the “RTS” bottles, I was so confused.

Later that same day, I was also told to refill a prescription and once again, felt somewhat lost. “So I click this, press Alt. What was it again? Oh no, go back, go back. Wait, which insurance again?” Those were some of my thoughts as I tried to troubleshoot my way through the new process.

What I want to share with you future P1s is that there is a gradual learning curve that you will eventually get over, with steady progression. You HAVE to overcome the curve and see the beauty in what you do, appreciate the work provided for you, FEEL the necessity of your duties and enjoy it. Optimism changes everything.

The best four ways that I believe a first-year pharmacy student can enhance development when they get into the pharmacy are:

  1. Be friendly and genuine with the staff—this can make or break your experience.
  2. Show your work ethic—do your work, and don’t complain. No one likes a whiner!
  3. Get to know your patients—everyone will have an experience being on that side of the pharmacy counter. Treat your patients like you would a friend.
  4. Stay curious—always wonder “Why?” It can be the catalyst for growth and change.

I want to be better, and daily strive to be better, because what we do every day is so far beyond the scope of ourselves.

My interactions with patients and coworkers have shaped my understanding of people and have humbled me to fully prepare myself academically. I find this to be critical in my development as a professional so that I can be competent and compassionate for the people I work with, as well as the people I work for. I want to be better, and daily strive to be better, because what we do every day is so far beyond the scope of ourselves.

Applying for Residency

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It’s just like applying to pharmacy school all over again, except now it can really determine your job, your career, and your geographical location for the next year or two. It’s an exciting, scary, and nerve-wracking experience, but going through the process with good friends who are all in the same boat really helps getting through it easier. You have their support and advice when there are things about the process you are unsure of. They are also there for you when you travel to all the conferences and looking back, those were some of my favorite memories of pharmacy school.

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The best advice I have for any student who is interested in a residency is to utilize your resources! There are so many resources and people to help you through the process here at Loma Linda. We are blessed with having wonderful faculty, many of whom have gone through the residency process at least once or twice and are now residency coordinators for some of our own programs. They have a wealth of knowledge about the application process and have tips and advice to help you along the way as well.

Going into the interviews, I prepared as much as I could but I also wanted to be relaxed and to be myself. So I was professional in my behavior but I also threw in a few jokes and laughs because that’s usually how I interact with most people. I figured if they like me, then they like me. If not, then I wasn’t meant to be there. What people say is true about matching with a residency program: it’s a one-year relationship. You have to like them and they have to like you, or else working there will be miserable. If they don’t think your true personality matches with their culture, then don’t feel bad they didn’t match with you. That was the mindset I went into every interview with. I just tried really hard to be myself, which isn’t hard to do at all!

Once you are done with interviews, you then have to sit down and make the hard decision of which programs to rank. People try to outsmart the system but I don’t think you can. Things happen for a reason so you have to match with your heart and be at peace with your decision. I changed my rank order quite a few times before I submitted my final list. In the end, I followed my heart and ranked based on what I felt was best for me at that time not knowing how any of the other programs ranked me. If things don’t work out, it is not the end of the world (believe it or not). Just have a Plan B and if you are serious about completing a residency, there is no harm in applying the following year. By then you will have much more experience to bring to the game.

I am very excited for the journey ahead of me. I don’t know where exactly it will take me, but I’m going into it expecting to get a lot out of the next year.

I honestly did not even think about The Match afterwards. Once I submitted my final list, I closed my laptop and went to bed. The night before the match results were revealed, I had no problems falling asleep and didn’t even set an alarm. I was actually woken up by a text message asking me if I had matched. That was when I checked and was relieved to find out that I had matched to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center! I took a deep breath, processed what had just happened, and went back to sleep. I am very excited for the journey ahead of me. I don’t know where exactly it will take me, but I’m going into it expecting to get a lot out of the next year.

I hope this has helped most of you get an idea of what to expect when it comes to applying for residency. I encourage everyone to go out there and talk to other people who went through the process as the experience is a little different from person to person. Overall, it was a fun, yet stressful experience and I tried to not let it psych me out too much. Applying for residency is also a very humbling process. Egos will be damaged, so do not take anything for granted. It takes a great amount of dedication throughout your pharmacy school career to get there. So remember, hard work pays off! 

Year 2 & Summer Recap

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The end of the 2014/2015 school year was a busy one – finishing up all of the exams, projects, and presentations was hard work! The hard work paid off and a three month break was ahead of me. I was excited to go home to Pennsylvania to spend time with my family and get a break from the busy schedule here at the School of Pharmacy.

My favorite aspect of the PY2 year is that we really dove head first into therapeutics classes where we focused on disease states and their drug management. I felt like I was starting to really learn the things I came to pharmacy school for. My most challenging time during the 2014/2015 school year was probably the spring quarter. During the spring quarter I took an elective called Medical Mission Prep (which I highly recommend to everyone!) and I had my hospital rotation. With the old scheduling scenario, the hardest quarter for most of us is the quarter that we have our rotation. It was an extremely busy quarter with little down time.

As I mentioned earlier, I went home to Harrisburg, PA for the summer. I worked 40 hours a week for a majority of the summer in the pharmacy of a northeastern grocery chain called Giant Food Stores. In June, I took a week off and spent it in Wenatchee, Washington with my girlfriend who just recently graduated from the dental hygiene program here at Loma Linda University. Wenatchee is her hometown and we spent the week hiking, biking, and spending time with her family. I also spent a day in Seattle were we visited Pikes Place on the oceanfront. Seattle was an interesting city and far different than the east coast cities I have been too. I don’t know too much about art but I could definitely tell that art is a distinctive aspect to the identity of Seattle.

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In July, I went to Romania as a medical missionary with a group of 17 students from our school of pharmacy and a professor. The trip was over the span of week and we set up clinics in the town of Adjud and Jilava, Romania. As students we performed physical exams, aided physicians in the diagnostic process, and furnished medications that were donated by the LLUMC. During a typical day we would set up clinic at around 9am, see about 90 patients until 8pm, and then go into the village and provide food and clothes to those who expressed a need at the clinic. We also prayed and sang songs. The people were so grateful for our service! God moved in a mighty way while we cared for these patients. I highly recommend going on any sort of mission trip; this changed my outlook on life and I realized we are truly blessed by God to be living in America. To finish off the summer, my girlfriend came to visit my family and me for a week.

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In terms of the PY3 year that awaits me, I am pretty excited about what God has in store for my future. I’m excited to learn and grow in the field of pharmacy. It would be nice to have more time to relax but I am ready to get this year under way. One year closer to the goal… GRADUATION!!!

Pharmacy = Magic

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My full name is Syndy Rielle Pasco Malit. My siblings and I use our mother’s maiden name as our middle name. Once I get married, my middle name will become Malit instead of Pasco and I will take up the last name of my husband. My dad always wanted a daughter named Cindy, short for Cinderella, I may be no princess but I sure am spoiled! Rielle is short for Gabrielle (my grandfather), so you pronounce it Re-El. I’ve never had an official nickname, but most people just call me whatever they first think of when they meet me: “Pikachu”, “Synderz”, “Syn”, “Hey”; as long as I know it’s me you’re referring to, I pretty much respond to anything.

When people as “Where are you from?” it’s always a fun question for me. I usually use it as an icebreaker because not many people get it right when they see me in person. One of my closest friends in pharm school, who I saw every day for six months, didn’t realize my ethnicity until I overheard her telling our other friend that she thought I was Japanese. Fun fact: I’m not Japanese. I’m lighter skinned than most other people in my race, and my eyes are rounder than usual. Depending on how I dress and style my hair, I can pass off as different races.
Hint 1: It’s the last ethnicity you would think of.
Hint 2: My national dress is made from pineapples.
Hint 3: If you can figure out what race my last name belongs to you pretty much have a solid idea.

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My family includes my father’s parents, my parents, my three siblings and I bring the total to eight. You know when you’re having a party when all you hear is laughing. Our favorite past time is eating food and watching crime shows. Even thought my sister is away to Japan teaching English, we talk to her every day. I really admire my mother because she works nights at the NICU, comes home and eats breakfast, sleeps maybe five hours and then does the house chores: laundry, cooking cleaning, you name it and she has it done.

I have three siblings; two sisters and one brother. My eldest sister, Krystl, is married and had her first kid earlier this year. He is the most adorable kid in the world (this is a very unbiased statement). My second sister, Xyryl, has been out in Japan for the past two years teaching English. My older brother, Zzyzx, started the MedTech program here at Loma Linda. We’re probably the best definitions of those kid personalities: the first is the wisest, the middle child is always picked on, and the youngest is spoiled. My brother’s the favorite because he’s the only son.

Let’s get to the exciting part; all of us have the coolest names (still an unbiased statement). Alright, alright, so I have to give some credit to my parents they have pretty awesome ideas. Krystl is probably the easiest to explain, just take out the ‘a’ in Krystal. Xyryl is like Cyril but her name is in relation to my cousin Xyriz. Now for my brother’s name, my dad was driving to Vegas, saw the road, bam! My name doesn’t really have much history. My dad wanted a daughter named Cindy, but he took out all the vowels.

As far as hobbies, I like to sleep; A LOT. But I also like reading manga and watching anime; anything that takes my mind off of the real world for just a few minutes. Sometimes I just need a breather from all the stress. My friends and I are also avid Disneyland goers; if I’m not in class or studying, I am there. I used to play the piano from elementary to tenth grade. I lost all my talent, please don’t ask me to play. I played for concerts, competitions, and recitals. I also played tennis in high school, probably the only physical activity I am willing to do.

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I went to California State University San Bernardino and majored in Chemistry with an emphasis on Biochemistry. I stayed close to home and I had a full-ride scholarship; it was probably the most fun in school I ever had. (pharmacy school is becoming a contender to this statement!) I met life-long friends. I think it comes from the high level stress that bonds you more closely with your classmates. I was teaching a supplemental course for general chemistry and calculus, doing research for my Biochemistry professor, and studying for my four exit exams (you can’t get a BS in biochemistry without passing four out of five exit exams, you’ll just get a BA).

Because my college had a sister school in Korea, we had a lot of Korean students that transferred over. I met some of my best friends because of this and even took two years of Korean from their influence. One of my summers I signed up to teach English in Korea and experienced a different country all by myself. Best. Life. Experience.

During the end of my third year in undergrad I applied to LLUSP (it was my dream school) and by the beginning of my fourth year I scored an interview. Medicine is the most fascinating thing. For me, it’s the closest thing to tangible magic and miracles. It’s a beautiful thing; you take a drug and later that day your sufferings are lessened. So I wanted to learn why a small pill can change how you feel, what does it do in your body, why does it work? So the easy thing to do was sign up for pharmacy school and look for my answers.

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I have been living here in Loma Linda since 1998 because of the job my mom has at the NICU for LLU Children’s Hospital. Sometimes I had to wait at the hospital until my dad came home from work; being in that environment caused me to admire the area. I wanted to be part of this staff, I wanted to be part of their education, and I wanted to be part of Loma Linda.

Out of the Classroom

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What was the end of the school year like?
The end of last school year felt very surreal. The first three years came by and went so fast. All the upper classmen told me this before, but I didn’t believe them until just recently. It feels weird to be done with school because all my life, all I’ve known was school. I am going into my 4th year and I think it will be exciting yet challenging because now we get to test and see how much we have learned so far.

What was the hardest thing about this last school year?
For me, the hardest thing about the last school year was realizing that in one year, I will be out in the real world with a student loan to pay. I am excited to start my life though and see where my career will take me geographically. I also hope to work in the hospital setting.

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What did you do this summer?
This summer I went on a few vacation trips with my girlfriend and family. It was nice to relax and not have to think about school. I went to San Diego, Colorado and also to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I love to travel, so there are many places I would like to go. I would like to go on road trips to more national parks around the country. I also want to visit Europe since I have never been there. I also want to take a trip to the Caribbean, Alaska, and Australia. When I was younger, I went to Chichen Itza, Mexico to see the Mayan ruins.

What were some of your favorite things about this last school year?
Looking back on last school year I enjoy seeing how everyone has changed. Also, I enjoyed all of our events that the school put on to bring all the students out of the classroom to interact with each other. Loma Linda’s also taught me to be compassionate to others and those in need, and to practice pharmacy sincerely and put myself out there to help others.

Have Fun!

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I think everyone kind of experiences the same type of “end of the school year.” You’re so excited that summer is almost here, but you’re still stressed and exhausted from pushing yourself to do well in the last quarter at school. The only thing really getting your thought of summer plans. But when the final quarter is over, you are just appreciative that you’re one year closer to the end goal and that you have a couple of months to relax and enjoy your family, etc.
…Or that could just be me ^^;;

The most memorable hard thing this past year was end of the quarter presentations. You have to make sure you read the patient profile, deduce what it is that they have had and what they currently have, and then go about deciding the best course of action. Probably the most important part of the whole thing is being able to explain what it is that you chose and why. Overall, however, no matter how nerve wrecking it is, the entire thing is a great experience in the end.

Summer has been pretty great. I got to hang out with my family while they were here in California, and I started working *Super Yay!!* at Inland Compounding Pharmacy! I also got some baking practice, Lego building, and wooden structure building in.

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Midway through Summer I dyed my hair blue, and it’s been more than great~! I don’t know why I hadn’t tried it earlier. xp

I also opened up an Etsy store as a hobby type of thing. I do key chains, and necklace and bracelet pendants. I have some lapel pins in the works and I’m hoping to expand to earrings in the next couple of months.

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If I had time to travel my first choice has always been Japan, but in the past couple of years I’ve been entertaining the idea of Italy and Greece. I’m a huge fan of mythology and architecture, and it would be incredible to see the places that I’ve read and heard stories about. Normally when my family travels, we go the Island/Asian route, so I’ve been to Saipan, the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan.

The first and best piece of advice I have ever been given while at Loma Linda, and from a professor no less, is to make sure to schedule time for fun. It gives you something to look for and keeps you from getting burnt out during the quarter. The second most important thing is it is never too early to prepare for a class. Preparation can be studying class material for as little as 30 minutes a day. And one of the last things I’ve learned at Loma Linda is to take some time to reflect on your life and connect with God. Take this time to realign your life with your life’s goals, purpose, and meaning.

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