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Development of an Intership at Providence Alaska Medical Center: Part Two

Written by John (JJ) Mellet

How did you learn about the internship?
I found the listing on an internet search engine. I had heard another Drake student (Ben Stamper) had gone to Alaska and done an internship, so I searched for them on Google.

What made you want to pursue such a unique opportunity?
I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, and I thought Alaska was far enough outside. Hospital pharmacy had always interested me, and I was eager to apply some of what I had learned in school and to get some valuable real-life experience, so I decided to take a long shot and apply.

What activities did you participate in while on the internship?
Over the two summers, I worked underneath various pharmacist services, including critical care, oncology, surgery, medicine, and pediatrics. I assisted and learned from the pharmacists on Coumadin services, aminoglycoside and TPN dosing, and reviewed clinical reports and patient charts. I attended weekly staff and clinical meetings, participated in teleconferences, and because of my informatics interest, was a member of the implementation team for the new pharmacy order-entry software (McKesson’s MedsManger). I worked on various projects on the administrative side as well, including DUE’s, P&T information research, and updating various education materials. I also supported the IV room by covering technician shifts as needed.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them (such as housing, transportation, level of schooling/knowledge, etc.)?
It was difficult being dropped into the hospital world with very little experience. I had to learn a lot of medical language and struggle to understand patient charts. Being in Alaska presented its own challenges, as it was very far from home and had a 3 hour time difference. I was fortunate to have very supportive pharmacists and other hospital staff helping me, they were patient and helped me to understand the flow of the hospital. My second summer back allowed me to participate in more clinical activities, as an extra year of school under the belt made a big difference, and I spent much less time adjusting.

How has this internship prepared you to become a pharmacist (besides clinically)?
Providence prepared me for many of the challenges I would face not only in the clinical setting, but in the administrative side as well. I was able to work on many projects for the pharmacy managers and directors, and see what everyone on the team had to do to keep the machine running smoothly.

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 experience improved your entrepreneurial leadership skills?
I was able to gain a better understanding of many of the difficulties patients and others on the healthcare team face with reconciling their home medications. This issue extends beyond just the hospital pharmacy, to the entire healthcare system as a whole. There is great opportunity for the pharmacist to play a role in helping patients understand their medications, and to assist the patient in maintaining a complete and accurate medication list for review and use by other healthcare providers.

What advice do you have for students who would like to pursue unique internship opportunities?
Make good use of the pharmacy faculty and campus resume services. Once you find something that interests you, they can help tremendously in preparing you for interviews as well as presenting yourself on paper. Keep a positive attitude and take the long shots.

Anything else that you would like to comment on regarding your internship?
Despite popular opinion, there is no snow on the ground in the summer, so I did not live in an igloo.