Interview with Maria Sibbel, a pharmacy student at Creighton University who is looking to complete a PGY1 hospital pharmacy residency after her fourth year. She is especially interested in teaching, clinical hospital pharmacy, acute care, infectious disease and emergency medicine.
Everyone’s leadership road is a little different; tell us what you are doing now and how you got there.
I did not start out in pharmacy. I was a medical illustrator working from home. My life changed when my son was born with spina bifida. He was life-flighted over to University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. All the doctors and nurses there where wonderful. They literally saved his life. When I was there I saw the impact the nurses, doctors and the rest of the health care team had on me and my family. I felt that I needed to give back in the same way by getting into the health care field. I was sort of in the health care field at the time as I was illustrating medical diagrams etc. for text books and journals. However, I wanted to do more, so I was looking to go back to school. I looked at pharmacy, PT and OT and with my skill set and background, I felt pharmacy would fit my personality and skills the best. I talked to a friend of mine who had gone through the Creighton University distance pathway and she raved about the program. I started looking into the program and getting more interested, but I still didn’t feel like I knew what a pharmacist did. So I went out and got a job as a pharmacy technician at a Hy-Vee drugstore to get a good feel for what pharmacist really do. The more I learned, the more interested I was in becoming a pharmacist. I applied to pharmacy school, got in, and now I am in my fourth year in pharmacy school and actually getting to do some of the things I have been studying. I just find it fascinating. The more I learn, the more interested I am in the field. I also went from community pharmacy to hospital pharmacy during my schooling, because I go an opportunity to get a job at a hospital. I wanted to learn what they do in the hospital pharmacy compared to the community pharmacy. So I started working one full day a week in the hospital pharmacy. The more I worked in the hospital pharmacy, the more I felt that’s where I belong. I really enjoy the clinical aspects, but I also enjoy being with people, working with the patients and their families. I enjoy working with the doctors and the nurses as an interdisciplinary team. So I feel that’s my path to take.
I have never been to your home but you told me your living room became your library/study place. Tell me about this professional study space you have created for yourself.
I wanted to have a bright area. Some people like to study in a cave, I do not. My living room has a big picture window, so I moved my desk in there. I have book shelves all around the room with my pharmacy books all lined up. I have my lap top and my desk top so I can multi task. I might have “Up to Date” up on one computer while I have the lecture up on the other. I am all about multi-tasking and I need a good environment for that. Yes, my living room has turned into a study/library. That’s what works for me.
How much were you or your classmates able to work during pharmacy school having a more flexible schedule and re-claiming hours not sitting in traffic? Incoming student may wonder “can I work extra hours, 10 hours, 20 hours”? What is your experience during the 3 years you were a distance student?
It really does depend on the person. Coming into the program, I hated it when people would say that because it makes it hard to plan. I have classmates that didn’t work at all and I have at least one classmate that worked full-time the whole time. That is not the norm. Working full-time would be extremely difficult. I think the majority of people would work anywhere from 10-20 hours a week. I worked one full day about 8-10 hours a week. I was able to do that on the day that the campus students had their labs. We as distance students do our labs for two weeks in the summer. We go to campus where we do labs back to back, but the campus students do their lab on one day a week during the school year. For example, all day Tuesday is lab sessions. So since I didn’t have any classes on that day, I would make that my work day and get of my work hours done in one day. That seemed to work for me so I didn’t have 3 evenings a week where I would work 3-4 hour shifts.
What are some of the disadvantages of an online program?
As an online student you have the choice if you want to be very independent and on your own or if you want to create a network for yourself with the other student. I know some students felt that they were kind of alone in the program in that they didn’t have the day-to-day interaction with the people they would see in class every day. For me, I took this a step further, and I think a lot of people did this in my class, we formed study groups of people we would keep in touch with on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. For example, I have a friend I got to know pretty well over the summer labs. We would keep in touch and study together for tests. We would ask each other questions that we would come up with to study for the test or maybe try to clarify questions that we had about class before we would ask the professor. Just because sometimes another person understands the material in a different way than you do. So there is that disadvantage of feeling alone if you are not used to being on your own studying, but I think that being on your own studying can be both a disadvantage and an advantage. You don’t have that distraction of other people either. I think it was a flexible thing as I could get in touch with people when I wanted to, but they weren’t distracting me to go out and party, for example.
Tell me about the rotations you have already taken and how they fit into your goal of becoming a hospital pharmacist. How did you decide on which 8 rotations you wanted to do, starting with the required ones and then go on to the electives?
We have to do 8 rotations total, each rotation being 5 weeks. The 5 required rotations for us are: hospital, community, ambulatory, acute care and MTM. The electives I chose were the academic rotation with you, hospital administration, and oncology. I chose the oncology rotation because when I did my 2-week IPPE at a hospital in Ames, I saw how much the oncology pharmacists did for those patients and what an impact they had on the patients and their families. So I wanted to learn more about it. I chose the academic rotation to see if I would like teaching and I have to say I really love it. I really like the interaction with the students, especially the pharmacy technician students. Probably because it is a smaller class and I get to know them better. The third elective I chose was hospital administration or management because I like being in a leadership role. I have gotten to know several pharmacists who are managers and I could see myself doing something like that in the future possibly. So I wanted to learn more about that too.
What are you most excited about today. I know you’ve got midyear coming up. What is really exciting you now?
I am really excited about mid-year. I have a poster that I am going to present at mid-year. I wrote up a case report on meningitis. We had an interesting case on my acute care rotation this summer, so I will be presenting that. I hope to meet with some of the residency directors and residents that are in this area (central Iowa). I do really like central Iowa, so I would love to get a residence in this area. I am originally from Norway, I came here as a foreign exchange student. I liked it so much that I went to Iowa State University. I have fallen in love with the people of Iowa, the places here and would like to practice in central Iowa. It excites me that I am getting close to being able to practice what I have been learning in school and at the same time excited about possibly doing a residency and getting to do more of those rotations. I don’t feel like I have enough electives for this year. So I would love to do residency in order to get to do more specialty hospital rotations. I would also like to do a residency because my dream job is getting to do both academics and clinical hospital pharmacy as a career.
What is your best daily ritual to keep you on track?
Creating a schedule really helps me. Especially, in the beginning when you are trying to set up that routine. I even had a schedule set up that said which subject to study for how many minutes each day. I pretty much had each minute planned out for the first semester and then adjusted it from there. So I think that something that really helps me is having that schedule to keep me on track
What is the best career advice you have ever received or given?
I try to approach things as if I was in that patient’s shoes or that co-worker’s shoes. How would I want to be treated? I would always want that person to go the extra mile for me, so that’s what I try to do. I try to go that extra mile, even if it is just to get the insurance to cover the medication, to make that extra phone call to the insurance company. Just doing that extra little bit goes a long way.
What inspires you?
I feel like there is so many things that inspire me, but I would say seeing how far my son has come in life already. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to walk, and yesterday I just saw him skipping down the street and I was running trying to catch up with him. He inspires me to keep going, to be better, because I know the challenges he faces every day.