Megan J. Ehret, PharmD, MS, BCPP
Co-Director of Mental Health Program
Department of Pharmacy, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research
University of Maryland, School of Pharmacy
Baltimore, MD

Dr. Ehret is a graduate of the University of Toledo where she completed her BS and PharmD degrees, and she went on to complete a Psychiatric Pharmacy Residency at the Louis Stokes VAMC, under the direction of Matthew Fuller. She then completed a Psychopharmacology and Pharmacogenomics Fellowship at Nova Southeastern University, under the direction of Gary Levin. Professional milestones include becoming a CPNP member in 2003 and board certified in psychiatric pharmacy in 2007. She has served on many different committees within the organization including the membership committee, the research committee, and government affairs committee. In addition, she has served as an editor for the Review Course, President and member-at-large on the Board of Directors, and currently as the BCPP Director for CPNP. Her full-time role is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy with a practice site at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. Additionally, she also has the privilege of working with the State of Maryland Medicaid Program in evaluating antipsychotic use in the state. Over the course of her career, she has also had the opportunity to work for the Department of Defense and the University of Connecticut.

How have you balanced your employment expectations with your personal career goals?

I personally believe that with every job, you should set personal and professional career goals. I have strived to develop these types of goals regardless of my position. The first steps in determining the balancing act involves outlining your personal career goals and your employment expectations. I recall as a young faculty member being required to define my current, five and ten-year goals. This is standard practice in academia. When I moved to a position outside of academia, I discovered that this was not the standard in every work environment. In my move to an advanced practice pharmacy position, my supervisor was initially taken back when I scheduled a meeting with her to discuss career progression. She stated she had never had a pharmacist want to discuss this topic so early on. Her primary concern was a perception of lack of growth within the position, but we discussed how creating new opportunities, such as new pharmacy services, would be beneficial to my overall growth as a practitioner. Discussing with your supervisor that growth and stimulation in your career is important, as well as brainstorming strategies on how you can do this is important. Being open about your personal career goals can seem intimidating, but having a plan can be mutually beneficial, creating opportunities for both you and your employer. After discussing my personal goals to grow as an advanced practice pharmacist, my supervisor was able to identify opportunities to match my goals. Although the activities didn’t match the exact job expectations they hired me for, my supervisor was happy to know that I would be a more satisfied employee if I was able to have personal growth in the position as well.

What techniques have you used to discuss career goals with your supervisor?

The strategy that I found most beneficial when discussing career goals with my supervisors is scheduling an in person meeting with a planned agenda. This provides you the time to develop your thoughts and how to approach ideas and thoughts during the discussion. I would suggest determining where job expectations and personal career goals match and describing that up front. After this, it may be easier to discuss areas where you want to grow and discuss strategies to carve out time or resources to benefit you as an employee. You can help sell your personal goals by highlighting how they will be mutually beneficial to the organization, but this can be a balancing act. For example, one of my personal career goals was to become the President of AAPP. I knew the time-consuming nature of the position and that my current job was not likely able to accommodate that request. I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor to discuss the importance of the position to me and how having the president of a national pharmacy organization on staff would likely reflect positively on the hospital, perhaps even bringing more opportunities to the institution. The administration was supportive and agreed to the opportunity. Having early, open and meaningful conversations is vital to the balancing act. Make sure to have them often enough to hold everyone accountable to expectations.

What would you recommend or what have you done when your job expectations don’t meet your personal career goals?

Even after having open discussions, your personal career goals may not be met by your current employer. Sometimes it will mean taking on your personal goals on your own time. I have spent many evenings and weekend writing articles and completing projects to advance my career as it did not fit into my workflow. This can be stressful, as it may interfere with your work/life balance. I would suggest developing a schedule to determine if you may be able to work alternative times, if this would help accomplish your personal goals. Ultimately if there is no way to accommodate your career goals with your employment expectations, you may need to consider the importance of your career goals and determine if you need to change employment. I ultimately left the advanced pharmacy practice position, because I felt my personal career goals were not aligning with my employment expectations. I tried multiple times to work with my supervisor and administration to work out many different scenarios, but we were unable to come to a complete agreement. The hospital had goals it needed met and I had goals which were not able to be accommodated. My personal career goals were important to me and I wanted to be able to invest the necessary time to meet them. After changing employment, I have been able to succeed and develop my next five-year goals.

What strategies have you used to help manage your work/life balance when your personal career goals spill over your employment schedule?

When having to complete items for my personal career goals on my personal time, I have found it can be stressful for friends and family. It often interferes with other activities and can lead to early burn out. Being organized while being able to multi-task is extremely important. Some strategies which I have found effective include creating to do lists with priorities and working on projects ahead of due dates. I have found that planning out the week for what has to be accomplished is very beneficial versus trying to plan day to day. I have also found that blocking time on my calendar for projects is very valuable. This holds me accountable to completing the project. Additionally, I often find myself working through lunch and closing my door to make sure that I get accomplished what I have scheduled for my day. I have also found that utilizing any downtime and working efficiently is important. If a patient is late to an appointment, have something ready that can be quickly completed. An example is bringing something to read to rounds and meetings, so if they start late, I am not just waiting. Make sure to give yourself a break as well. Keeping your personal life balanced with hobbies or interests is important. I try to schedule my running time each week. Although challenging at times, it helps to keep my stress level in check as it provides “me time”. When asked to do things outside of your job expectations, consider the time it will take to complete the project, and the benefits the project will have both to you and your employer. Somethings will just not fit into your schedule or plan, and you can say no. Maintaining the balance can be very challenging, so it is good to step back and reevaluate at times to make sure that you are still working for the same goals or have your goals changed, you are utilizing your time to the best of your ability, and that you have achieved some of your goals as well. Find time to reward yourself when things have been accomplished!