We’re excited to introduce you to Peter Johnson, PharmD!
Dr. Johnson is a full-time faculty member at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy. In addition to his work as an educator, he also actively works as a pediatric pharmacist—specializing in pediatric critical care—in the Medical and Cardiovascular Surgery (CV) Pediatric ICU (PICU) at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.
Dr. Johnson was kind enough to answer our questions about what it’s like to work in pediatric pharmacy and provide his advice for future pharmacists looking to pursue a similar path.
What makes your career path unique?
My position is unique in that it’s multifaceted. When working in the PICU, I spend a great deal of my time on direct patient care responsibilities for critically ill children. But, in addition to this direct patient care, I also teach pharmacy students and residents about pediatric pharmacy and acute care topics, including pain management, fluid and electrolytes, and more.
The following are a few of the specific things I’m responsible for as a faculty member at the OU College of Pharmacy:
- Precept pharmacy students and residents in the PICU setting
- Serve as the residency program director for postgraduate year two (PGY2) pediatric pharmacy residency
- Lead the clinical and translational science fellowship in pediatric pharmacotherapy at the OU College of Pharmacy and the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center
What does a typical work day look like for you?
In the mornings three or four times a week, I do my rounds with the multidisciplinary medical or CV PICU teams. After rounds, I spend the rest of my work day on teaching activities or clinical research initiatives.
In addition to these duties, I often follow-up on ongoing clinical activities throughout my day. High-level organization skills are a must!
What’s most rewarding about your career?
The most rewarding part of each work day is having the privilege to care for sick children. As a clinical pharmacist in the pediatric intensive care unit, I take care of some of the sickest patients in our health system.
It’s truly a blessing to share my knowledge and experience to help medical teams and families ensure that medications are used safely and effectively in these sick patients.
What’s most challenging about your career?
The most challenging part of my career as a pediatric pharmacist and faculty member is finding ways to balance patient care activities with my other academic responsibilities.
I have a very active practice site full of very sick children. Some days it’s challenging to make sure that I accomplish my needed tasks related to academia, while also making sure that I address the needs of the children in my care.
My mentor once said: “Nothing comes before the care of a sick child.” I’ve tried to keep this motto in mind to help me prioritize my busiest days.
What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?
When I was growing up, members of my family had multiple health issues. As a result, I was constantly in and out of our local, independent pharmacy.
I was always interested in how the medications my family members took worked, and I remember being very impressed by our local pharmacist’s ability to adequately counsel them on medication interactions and side effects. Seeing a pharmacist work first hand got me excited about the field of pharmacy.
I chose to pursue pediatric pharmacy as a specialty because I witnessed my brother experience a great deal of pain after many of his surgeries as a child. I wanted to pursue a career where I’d be able to help prevent children from experiencing significant pain.
As a pediatric pharmacist, I get to combine those two passions to help children today!
What steps did you take to enter into this career path?
To pursue my current career, I completed two pediatric advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE) rotations as a fourth-year student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.
Then, I completed my pharmacy practice residency at the University of Kentucky’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital. There, I had the opportunity to complete several pediatric rotations and solidify my long-term goal to be a pediatric pharmacist.
After that, I went on to complete my specialty residency in pediatric pharmacy from the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and Kentucky Children’s Hospital. During this residency, I was able to complete multiple rotations in pediatric critical care which helped prepare me for my current clinical practice.
What advice would you give to future pharmacists?
I would recommend that pharmacy students, residents, and new practitioners seek out mentors in their field to help them transition into their new positions, whether that is residency or a clinical specialist/faculty position.
I would not be where I am today without mentors who were willing to listen to me when I was struggling, encourage me when I needed it, and push me in the direction of where I needed to grow.
I would also recommend that they get involved in professional organizations to network with other practitioners and experts in the field. The relationships that I’ve developed with other colleagues in professional organizations have been pivotal for my career and—beyond the professional benefits—many people that I’ve met have become life-long friends.
Want to learn more about pharmacy careers?
Thank you to Dr. Johnson for giving us the opportunity to learn more about his career in pediatric pharmacy! If you’re interested in pursuing pediatric pharmacy, you can learn more about it here.
Don’t forget to explore our compilation of pharmacist bios for a peek behind-the-scenes with pharmacists in other career specialties, as well!