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A Day in the Life of a Hospital Pharmacist

A Day in the Life of a Hospital Pharmacist

Meet Scott Micek, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS!

He’s a hospital pharmacist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, a professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and the director of STLCOP’s Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education.

Dr. Micek agreed to take us behind-the-scenes to showcase a day in his life as a pharmacist. Read on for more about his career path, his day-to-day duties, and even some advice for pharmacy students like you!

Why pharmacy?

Before—and even immediately after—graduating from high school, I didn’t consider pharmacy as a possible career option. At that time, I knew I really enjoyed my math and science classes, but what I really wanted to be was a football player.

So, I accepted a partial athletic scholarship to Mankato State University in Minnesota to play college football. After my first year there, my dad suggested that I develop a career plan that wasn’t focused on football.

That’s when I spoke to my college advisor, who was connected with some pharmacy students at the  University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. I was lucky enough to speak to those students, and they helped me finalize my decision to pursue pharmacy school.

Once the decision was made, I applied to the University of Iowa (UI) College of Pharmacy. My acceptance letter arrived on the night of the spring football game at Mankato. That was when I knew had to make a choice; I chose to attend pharmacy school over playing football. That’s when my pharmacy career pathway really began.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a neighbor who owned his own independent compounding pharmacy. Once I got into pharmacy school, he asked me to come and work for him. It was a great opportunity because I was able to start getting firsthand pharmacy experience right away. At first, I worked primarily in his community pharmacy, but eventually, he gave me an additional opportunity to work in the home health pharmacy division of the independent pharmacy corporation he co-owned in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

While interning at the home health pharmacy, I had the opportunity to join pharmacists and nurses during home visits. The interactions between health care professionals and patients really inspired me and solidified my desire to choose pharmacy as a profession.

What type of pharmacist are you?

I’m a hospital pharmacist, and my specialty is intensive care medicine. I provide pharmacy services to patients within the intensive care units of the hospital as a member of a patient care team that includes physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, social workers, case workers, and others.

Being part of a team like this takes me back to my football days. This is mainly because I see similarities in how a patient care team functions like a sports team—everyone has a unique job to do. But, instead of trying to win a game, our goal is to work together to make a patient better.

My specific duties on the team include ensuring that the medications prescribed to patients are the correct ones, and confirming that they’re being given in the correct doses at the proper times. When the patient care team is making care plans for patients, it’s also my responsibility to make medication recommendations.

What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique because, for 15 years, I worked full-time in a hospital intensive care unit serving patients and families as a hospital pharmacist. Now, I’m using my skills and experience to educate the next generation of pharmacists.

In 2013, I joined St. Louis College of Pharmacy as a faculty member. As a professor, I get to teach students in the classroom about pharmacotherapy, as it relates to critical care. I also co-coordinate and teach a course designed to show students how to evaluate, interpret, and apply research studies that guide the decisions health providers make when caring for patients.

In addition, I still spend 12-14 weeks a year working in a hospital. When I’m there, I always have the chance to work with pharmacy students who are on rotations. This is really rewarding because I get to see students put their knowledge into practice and watch as they interact directly with members of the patient care team, the patient, and the patients’ families.

At St. Louis College of Pharmacy, I’ve also been able to pursue my passion for research. During my time at the UI College of Pharmacy, I worked as a research assistant in a basic science lab. That experience gave me the itch to do research.

Today, I consider myself a clinical researcher. As the director of the college’s Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education, I’m part of a team that analyzes data from electronic health records as well as administrative claims databases. We build models and algorithms and then apply our findings at the bedside in the form of electronic clinical decision alerts or order sets designed to help us improve the outcomes of hospitalized patients. We have many students involved with us in this research. They are gaining important skills in database construction, as well as statistical data analysis.

My career path has been unique because I’ve been able to branch out into multiple directions. But, whether I’m in the hospital, teaching students in the classroom, or doing research, the patient has always remained the focus of my work.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the relationships I’ve built. Some of them have been short-term relationships with patients and families, others have been long-term relationships with members of various patient care teams I’ve worked on. I very much value the connections I’ve been able to form with my students over the years.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

On days when I’m working in the hospital, I get to work before six in the morning. I start the day by reviewing the medication regimens for my patients. After that, I meet with the entire patient care team and we make plans for our patients for the day.

Rounds start at 7:30 a.m. During rounds, I educate pharmacy students, pharmacy residents, and physicians who are in their residency training on the thought processes behind the patient medication decisions that have been made. This is also the time when I educate ICU patients and families about their medication regimens.

When I’m in my faculty role at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, each day is rarely the same. I can be found in the lecture hall, in a classroom, or in a meeting room teaching students. If I’m not teaching, you might find me writing a grant, constructing a database, analyzing data, drafting a manuscript, or putting together a research presentation.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding days are always the ones when my patients have good outcomes.

The other days that I enjoy most are those when I get to see my pharmacy students put their knowledge into practice. Seeing them interact directly with members of the patient care team, the patient, and the patients’ families is very rewarding.

Today, I also get a lot of personal satisfaction from presenting my research to those who aren’t familiar with what I do. It’s nice to get feedback from different audiences.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging days are the ones when things don’t go as expected. It’s always hard when I make a medication recommendation that results in a patient having a bad outcome such as an adverse reaction.

As health care providers, we make decisions based on the best information we have, but patients aren’t textbooks and outcomes we don’t expect do happen. It’s very challenging when you feel like you contributed to something that didn’t go well, but these situations provide the opportunity to self-reflect and think about how to better deal with them next time.

This is also the case with students. As a professor, I advise a lot of students, but I don’t always do or say the right thing. When I do make mistakes in my interactions with pharmacy students, I’ve found that the ability to show vulnerability goes a long way towards resolving the situation.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other health care professions?

I was attracted to pharmacy because I knew I had career options. Thanks to my neighbor who was a pharmacist, I was able to explore different aspects of pharmacy very early on in my college career.

He was a great mentor who encouraged me to gain experiences outside of the community pharmacy setting in a home health pharmacy and the research lab. Those diverse experiences attracted me to pharmacy and solidified my interest in pursuing the profession.

What advice would you give a student entering pharmacy school?

First, I would encourage students to learn how to build relationships. Whether it’s connecting with professors, or with older students who have been through pharmacy school before, it’s so important to get involved and to get to know people. Visibility builds trust, and the trust students gain with other professionals and peers helps them to become more successful.

I also can’t stress enough the importance of non-digital relationships. I always tell my students that I can help them so much more effectively with five to ten minutes of face time than I could by spending twenty minutes answering an email from them. That face-to-face contact really allows me to get to know students and show them I care.

While in school, I would also recommend that students utilize the resources that are there for them. There are always people and things out there that can help make our lives easier, but at times, we’re all guilty of not taking advantage of them.

What do you wish someone told you (in high school or college) as it pertains to your career?

As a young college student, I was guided to explore all my opportunities, and I can’t stress enough how much this has helped me during my career. I would tell students to never be afraid to try new things.

If they have been an intern at a community pharmacy, I’d advise them to try hospital pharmacy. If they don’t know if they like research or not, I’d encourage them to find a project to work on and try it for a semester or two. There’s always something new and exciting to explore, and it’s important to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to them while they can.

Also, I want future pharmacy students to understand that there are many sides to pharmacy. There’s the business side, the computer science side, the ongoing communication with people, and more. Many things that students think have nothing to do with pharmacy, may be tied to pharmacy in one way or another.

What do you believe is the biggest misconception about the field of pharmacy?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain what I do for a living to my friends. Because they have never interacted with a pharmacist in a hospital, they assume that a hospital pharmacist’s role is much like that of a community pharmacist—preparing and dispensing prescriptions.

What they don’t understand is that there is much more involved in my role. My job is more heavily focused on having meaningful interactions with a large patient care team, patients, and the families of patients, as well as managing medication regimens for many patients.

As you can see, Dr. Micek’s career as a hospital pharmacist is so much more than just prescribing medications. He’s making people’s lives better every day through patient care, research, and education.

If you’re interested in learning more about careers like Dr. Micek’s in hospital pharmacy or the many other career options available in the industry, visit our Career Paths page.

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