SPOKANE – Pharmacist Julie R. McCoy spoke with students in the Washington State University Doctor of Pharmacy program on Monday, March 3, as part of the college’s Preparing for Your Career in Pharmacy Seminar Series.

McCoy was the fourth of five guest speakers from across the nation to engage with student pharmacists regarding their vision of how the profession is evolving and the opportunities that exist for future pharmacists to change and advance the practice of pharmacy. The seminar series is coordinated by the WSU College of Pharmacy.

McCoy is the manager of clinical pharmacy services at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash. She led a question and answer session on the WSU Health Sciences campus in Spokane that gave student pharmacists the opportunity to discuss residency opportunities, leadership in pharmacy, and achieving professional satisfaction.

McCoy is also the director of Providence St. Peter Hospital’s post-graduate residency program. She gave students insight on how to differentiate themselves from other residency applicants, how to discover their true career ambitions, and the age old question: experience vs. grades.

Success in the didactic curriculum (aka pharmacy school) measured by “grades” and pharmacy experience are both criteria on the application evaluation matrix that McCoy uses at Providence St. Peter Hospital to score applicants. “These days, everyone looks good on paper,” McCoy said. She told the students that residency applicants who stand out often have unique community service or life experiences that demonstrate leadership and involvement beyond the statement, “I am a leader,” typed on a resume.

Students also had the opportunity to hear McCoy’s perspective on how the pharmacist’s role fits in with the recent changes in health care as a response to the Affordable Health Care Act.

Hospitals do a lot to keep patients from coming back after they’ve been sent home from a major procedure, like heart surgery. This means making sure the patient and family understand and follow provider orders for continuing recovery at home which includes both physical rehabilitation and prescription drug regimens. The goal of this “transition team” is to make sure the patient continues to recover and avoids post-procedure complications or re-injury that would find the patient readmitted to the hospital. Preventing readmission reduces health care costs for individuals, hospitals and insurance companies, and one of the keys to success is appropriate use of medications.

A low hospital readmission rate is an important measure for hospitals. Medicare has set target 30-day readmission rates for hospitals, making discharge processes and procedures increasingly important, McCoy said. Staying compliant with these procedures makes it more likely they will receive a full reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid for care provided.

“With a pharmacist on the transition team you can be a lot more compliant, much more close to 100 percent,” McCoy said, and this compliance is worth millions of dollars in reimbursement across the healthcare industry.

At an increasing rate, pharmacists are being asked to join the health care team and as a result Providence St. Peter is accepting more and more pharmacists for their residency program, McCoy said. The hospital increased to eight post-graduate pharmacy residents this last year, up from four residents the year before.