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Peter Johnson – Pediatric Pharmacist

Peter Johnson
What makes your career path unique?

I am a full-time faculty member with the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And, I specialize in pediatrics, specifically pediatric critical care

That said, I also maintain an active practice site in the Medical and Cardiovascular Surgery (CV) Pediatric ICU (PICU)’s at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

So, my position is unique in that I have a good amount of direct patient care responsibilities for critically ill children in the PICU, but also do quite a bit of teaching pharmacy students and residents in pediatric pharmacy and acute care topics like pain management and fluid and electrolytes.

In my role, I precept P1-P4 pharmacy students and PGY1 pharmacy and PGY2 residents in the PICU settings. I also serve as the residency program director for the PGY2 pediatric pharmacy residency and director of 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 workday look like for you?

I round with the multi-disciplinary medical or CV PICU teams three to four days per week. These patients care rounds usually occur in the morning time, and I spend the rest of my work day on teaching activities or clinical research initiatives. In addition to this, I often follow-up on ongoing clinical activities throughout my day, so organization skills are a must.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding part of each work day is the privilege I have to take care of 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 is truly a blessing to help share my knowledge and experience with the medical teams and families to ensure that we use medications safely and effectively in these sick patients.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging parts of my days are when I have 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 is 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.

As my mentor once said, “Nothing comes before the care of a sick child.” So, I have tried to keep this motto in mind to help me prioritize my days.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was attracted to pharmacy—specifically pediatric pharmacy—over other health professions for two reasons.

First, my family had multiple health issues, including my dad who had lung cancer, my brother who has congenital heart disease, and my mom who has mechanical valve. So, I grew up going with my family to numerous doctor visits, and my family was also constantly in and out of our local, independent pharmacy. I was always interested in how the medications that my family took worked and how they contributed to side effects. For example, when my dad was on numerous pain medications, the only healthcare professional who adequately counseled them on how they worked and the expected side effects was our local pharmacist.

Second, my older brother had to have multiple surgeries to repair his congenital heart defects. Following surgery, he experienced quite a bit of pain. I was particularly interested in a healthcare profession like pharmacy that would be able to help prevent against significant pain in children.

What steps did you take to enter into this career path?

To pursue my current career, I completed two pediatric APPE rotations as a fourth-year student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

Then, I went on to complete my pharmacy practice residency at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. It was here that 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 a student entering pharmacy school?

I would recommend that 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 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 have developed with other colleagues in professional organizations have been pivotal for my career and, beyond the professional benefits, many have become life-long friends.