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Hardest Pharmacy School Interview Questions and Answers

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Interviews for Pharmacy school can cover challenging topics. Here, we present 10 of the most difficult questions and answers suitable for candidates to Pharmacy schools.

Knowledge of Pharmacy and Healthcare

How should Pharmacy, or healthcare in general, look to change in the coming years? Consider a global issue.

I would focus on sustainability and climate change. The healthcare sector generates 5% of all annual emissions worldwide – in the US, the healthcare system accounts for 7.9% of total emissions. Carbon emissions in healthcare come from the supply chain. This could be, for example, the supply of equipment that is manufactured in a manner that emits carbon. We must therefore work towards becoming carbon neutral as a broad profession – not just as pharmacists, but as physicians, nurses, and all allied healthcare professionals. As it stands, the public health damage done each year by the US healthcare system’s emissions is equivalent to the annual deaths related to avoidable medical errors. To begin, we might try to accurately measure the total footprint of healthcare systems – including the energy consumption of hospitals, the waste that is produced, the medical devices and plastic products used, etc. We can then begin considering how hospitals are built, and how we can source zero carbon equipment. This is a huge responsibility and a huge shift, and pharmacists should be part of it, as our role in protocol and decision making must not be underestimated.

How would you restrict the spread of an epidemic such as Ebola?

The most important step in the restriction of a pandemic is pandemic planning – there ought to be clear steps laid out in advance that the government can implement at a moment’s notice. I would expect this to be the case, certainly in light of recent events. I would expect prompt social distancing and the shutting borders whilst the situation was assessed. I would expect work from home orders for all non-essential workers whilst this assessment continued. A test-and-trace system would need to be immediately implemented, and it would need to be efficient – which means cases could be linked back quickly, and all affected people found and warned. With a disease as serious as Ebola, there would be little public backlash to these measures – COVID-19 is clearly a lesser concern for the vast majority of the population. I would expect a lockdown to last as long as it needed to initially, and to be stringent – rather than an oscillation between lockdown and non-lockdown. I would expect public health messaging to be clear from the outset on the dangers of the disease and how to work together as a society to combat it. This would involve hygiene measures and prompt uptake of vaccine as and when this were available. Depending on the severity of the epidemic, I would expect a lockdown to be more or less severe – if a severe epidemic of a disease as dreadful as Ebola happened, I would anticipate a lockdown that would see people largely kept to their homes, bar to buy essential food, toiletries and medicines.

In your opinion, how has the shift towards value-based healthcare influenced the role of a pharmacist?

The shift towards value-based healthcare has transformed the role of pharmacists significantly. Traditionally, the pharmacist’s role was mainly confined to dispensing medication. However, value-based healthcare emphasises improved patient outcomes, preventive care, and the efficient use of resources. This change has seen pharmacists assume a more active role in patient care. Pharmacists are now more involved in activities such as patient counselling, medication therapy management, disease prevention and health promotion. They are seen as crucial members of the healthcare team who provide valuable advice on the safe and effective use of medications. This shift encourages pharmacists to work closely with patients to ensure they understand their medications, adhere to their medication regimens, and ultimately, achieve the best possible outcomes. Furthermore, this transformation has created opportunities for pharmacists to specialise in areas such as geriatric care, oncology, and ambulatory care. It’s an exciting time for the pharmacy profession as we continue to redefine our role and contribute to the overall goal of enhancing patient health and well-being.

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Personal Attributes

Is it more important to be competent or compassionate?

One must be both. A pharmacist who was compassionate but lacked competency would be dangerous – whilst their intentions would be good, and their desire to help patients would be commendable, their actions would put patients at risk. On the other hand, the competent pharmacist who entirely lacked compassion would likely not be motivated by helping patients, but rather by their own success or by financial gain. They would therefore perhaps cut corners or make decisions that were in their own interests, rather than those of the patients. Ultimately though, if one had to choose, then, logically, the competent pharmacist would be a safer decision than the compassionate pharmacist. We ought to prioritise patient safety above all else if a binary decision like this must be made.

How would you cope with stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance in a demanding profession like pharmacy?

Coping with stress and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are essential for long-term success and well-being in a demanding profession like pharmacy. To manage stress, I would adopt various strategies, such as engaging in regular physical activity, practising mindfulness techniques, and seeking social support from friends, family, and colleagues. Additionally, I would establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, dedicating time to activities and hobbies that I enjoy and that help me recharge. Setting realistic expectations and regularly reassessing my workload would also be important to prevent burnout and maintain a sustainable balance. Through prioritising self-care and nurturing a supportive network, I believe that I can effectively manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance, allowing me to excel in my pharmacy career while also enjoying a fulfilling personal life.

As a pharmacist, you will need to communicate with individuals from various backgrounds. How will your personal experiences enable you to do this effectively?

Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, which has broadened my understanding and respect for different perspectives and cultures. In college, I volunteered at a community center where I tutored children of immigrants. The experience taught me the importance of patience, understanding, and cultural sensitivity in communication. I believe these experiences have equipped me with the skills to communicate effectively with patients from various backgrounds. As a pharmacist, I understand that my ability to deliver care effectively will largely depend on my communication skills. I will strive to create a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for all my patients, where they feel comfortable discussing their health concerns.

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Ethics

Suppose a patient comes to the pharmacy with a prescription for a potentially harmful dose of medication. What would you do?

Dealing with a situation like this involves a balance of respecting the prescribing physician’s decisions and ensuring the safety of the patient. First, I would double-check the dosage instructions to make sure there’s no mistake. If the dose still seems potentially harmful, I would contact the prescribing physician to clarify. It could be a simple error, or there may be a particular reason for the high dose that I’m unaware of. If the physician confirms the prescription, and I’m still uncomfortable dispensing it, I would seek a second opinion from a trusted colleague or supervisor. If consensus is that the dose could cause harm, I would refuse to dispense the medication. My priority is always the safety of the patient. As healthcare professionals, it’s our responsibility to ensure we do no harm

 

How would you handle a situation where a patient asks you for a prescription for a controlled substance without a legitimate medical need?

If a patient approached me requesting a prescription for a controlled substance without a legitimate medical need, I would remain professional and empathetic while firmly explaining that it is both illegal and unethical for me to provide such a prescription. I would also discuss the potential risks and consequences associated with the misuse of controlled substances, such as addiction, adverse health effects, and legal ramifications. If appropriate, I would offer to help the patient seek the necessary medical care or support services they may need, such as referring them to their primary care provider or providing information on relevant support groups and resources. In doing so, I would aim to prioritise the patient’s well-being while adhering to the legal and ethical obligations of the pharmacy profession.

As a pharmacist, how would you handle a situation where a patient's cultural or personal beliefs conflict with the recommended course of treatment? How would your values and attributes guide your response?

It is essential to approach such situations with sensitivity, empathy, and respect for the patient’s autonomy. My values and attributes would guide my response in the following ways. First,  I would begin by listening carefully to the patient’s concerns, making an effort to understand their perspective and any underlying fears or misconceptions. By demonstrating empathy and acknowledging their feelings, I would create a supportive environment for open dialogue. Next, I would approach such situations with sensitivity and respect for diverse cultural beliefs and practices. It is essential to acknowledge the patient’s values and strive to find a solution that respects their beliefs while ensuring optimal health outcomes. Then I would provide clear, accurate, and culturally appropriate information to address the patient’s concerns and help them understand the rationale behind the recommended treatment. This may involve using visual aids, analogies, or translated materials, and ensuring that the information is presented in a manner that the patient can understand. Lastly, I would  involve the patient in the decision-making process, exploring alternative treatment options that align with their beliefs while still addressing their health needs. This may require consulting with other healthcare professionals, referring the patient to a specialist, or seeking guidance from relevant cultural or religious leaders.

Should patients with a terminal illness be able to use an experimental drug, even if it has not yet been rigorously tested?

This depends on the phase that the trial has reached. If the drug is in phase I, then its safety profile will not yet be understood, and more importantly its effectiveness will be totally unknown. As such, the patient would be signing up to take a drug that could theoretically cause them devastating side effects, on top of their existing condition – and not provide any benefit. More than 90% of drugs that enter phase I trials will be found to be unacceptable from a safety standpoint. Potentially, allowing patients to use drugs that are at an early stage would provide them with false hope, and also distract from their other, more proven, treatment possibilities.

On the other hand, if the patient is well-informed, aware of the risks, and living under the shadow of a condition that is debilitating and likely to soon kill them, then we can understand that they would want to try everything in their power to improve their outcomes. Given that some people will take part in the Phase 1 of a clinical trial – and that these people are typically healthy, given that phase 1 tests only side effects – then why should those people not contain among their number some patients who might actually benefit from the drug?

Overall, from a human perspective I cannot even begin to understand the frustration that a patient would feel on being told that they cannot even test a drug which is their last recourse. I do not believe that we ought to be able to reject people from having the option of taking a drug in its early stage of development if they have gone through sufficient counselling on the issue, shown that they are aware of the process and its dangers, and discussed their care with the medical team and found that there are truly no other options available to them.

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