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Development of an Internship at Providence Alaska Medical Center: Part One

Written by Ben Stamper

Why did you want to pursue an internship at a location that did not have one in existence?
I wanted to pursue an internship outside the bounds of a "traditional" pharmacy. The internship I was searching for need to offer something beyond counseling patients and compounding creams. I also wanted to look beyond the internships offered within or through the College. By completing a new and unique internship, I was able to see how others practice. I was also able to open the door for pharmacy students after me. I believe the internship has had a Drake student each year for the past three years.

What was your first point of attack in starting the process?
The first thing I did was to brainstorm about what my ideal internship experience would be. I looked at some internships in the Midwest but most of them didn't seem like a good fit. I also found the lack of information available regarding existing internships very frustrating. While I was "studying" for a test one night, I started reading some of the pharmacy magazines at the College of Pharmacy. These magazines had job opportunities listed. I searched for Alaska and found one hospital advertising for a pharmacist position and wondered if they had an internship as well.

What was the process you went through to get the internship started?
I emailed the contact person at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, AK and she forwarded my email to the Residency Coordinator who recently started an internship program a few years prior. We exchanged emails, I completed the application process and finally underwent phone interview.

What struggles did you have through the process and how did you overcome them (such as housing, transportation, being in a new place, etc.)?
My travel and housing were covered by the hospital, which was a huge relief. My preceptor invested a lot of time into the internship to ensure that it went well. The experience wasn't without its challenges though. I went to Alaska without knowing anyone and the first few weeks were difficult, to say the least. I did purchase a bike right away so that I could get to the mountains and start hiking. Through this I was able to meet a lot different people. Additionally, the pharmacists at the hospital were very welcoming and offered their cars on the weekends so that the other interns and I could go explore Alaska. Another difficulty I encountered was the steep learning curve as I had to apply what I had learned in school. This meant that whether I was at work or at home, I was always studying or reading current literature. The rest of the internship experience was spent taking risks and trying new things. I found this was the most effective way to meet some very interesting and friendly people.

How do you feel this internship experience has prepared you to become a pharmacist?
The internship gave me confidence both socially and professionally. I was proactive in each step along the way and also had to venture out of my comfort zone to meet new people. This confidence carried over into the remainder of my college career. Without this experience, I would not be completing a residency and also would not have joined two national organizations.

What advice do you have for a student who would like to inquire about an internship at a site that does not have one?
My advice to students would be to try to find out what you want in an internship. Participate in as many experiences as possible as they are offered during your four years as a student. These opportunities will let you meet different pharmacists in different settings and can provide insight into the pros and cons of each type of practice. Do not be afraid to ask questions and set your goals high. State organizations can also be a great tool to utilize as information sources, and also as vehicles to help you meet other pharmacists from around the state that are in interesting practices. There are many internship programs available, but they need to be searched out as they usually do not plop down in your lap.

An entrepreneurial leader works to advance the profession of pharmacy by proactively identifying and pursuing new opportunities to create value for patients and society. This means recognizing and fulfilling a professional obligation to promote change, to identify and pursue opportunities, and to improve patients’ lives. How has this process improved your entrepreneurial leadership skills?
There are many ways that this process has improved my entrepreneurial leadership skills. It has instilled a confidence that has enabled me to identify and pursue opportunities or ideas that inspire me. The process has also showed me that I can help make changes in how pharmacy is perceived in the healthcare system. We should be providing excellent care to each and every one of our patients.

The internship was developed to mirror what a pharmacy resident would do, at a slightly scaled back level. I was able to participate in internal medicine rounds, help with pharmacokinetic dosing of aminoglycosides and vancomycin, complete warfarin dosing and help with a drug-use evaluation on nesiritide. These opportunities together created a unique intern experience that will serve me well in my future practice.