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Prepare for Residency Interviews

Kate Traynor

When discussing residency options with preceptors, you should do your homework and look closely at what each program offers, say experienced residency administrators.

Too often, residency candidates are told to select a certain site "because it’s a really good program," says William N. Jones, M.S., program manager at the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System in Tucson, Ariz. But residency candidates should look beyond a program’s reputation, he says.

"The better [residency] programs," says Rawley M. Guerrero, Pharm.D., pharmacy services director at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, "will be focused on the development of skills and abilities for residents." Teaching specific skills for clinical practice in an organized health system is the real objective of any residency program, he adds.

How can a residency candidate tell whether a program meets this objective? Jones tells candidates to study the residency accreditation standards and see how well programs comply with these requirements.

"Read the standards, even if you don’t understand them," says Jones. Then, during the interview, "ask very specific and direct questions" related to the standards.

A residency candidate who asks Jones, How do you accomplish drug information at the VA in Tucson since you don’t have a drug information center, has clearly done some research. Provision of drug information is part of the accreditation standards for pharmacy practice residencies. A candidate who asks this type of question "is somebody who has actually thought a little bit farther ahead" than usual, says Jones.

"I think it’s incumbent upon residency candidates to at least be familiar with the terminology and the underlying basis of residency training," advises Guerrero. He suggests that people considering a residency at his hospital first check the program’s Web site and familiarize themselves with the material directed at both preceptors and residents.

At Jones’ hospital, residents understand that their job is to take care of patients and that, to do the job well, "they need to integrate with the rest of the pharmacy." This means that personalities and other nontechnical issues will influence what a candidate learns from the program.

Jones advises residency candidates to talk to as many people involved in the program as possible and observe the mix of personalities. A candidate who can say "I like the style, I like the people, I like the place I’d live in" will probably get the most out of their year of residency, he says.

Another important question to ask is, Where have former residents gone after they’ve finished the residency? A residency candidate who cannot envision following career paths similar to his or her predecessors' should wonder whether the program will fulfill the candidate's needs, says Jones.