3 Tips for Launching a Peer Mentoring Program

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Fall 2016

The first days of pharmacy school can be exciting for students because they are embarking on a new chapter of their lives.

The first days of pharmacy school can be exciting for students because they are embarking on a new chapter of their lives. However, feelings of excitement are often accompanied by anxiety from the incoming pharmacy workload and lack of familiarity with the demanding lifestyle of a graduate student. In addition, challenges like making new friends, navigating to the next class, and figuring out how to get involved in pharmacy organizations can all seem overwhelming.

Without support to address these challenges, a student’s academic performance and overall involvement in extracurricular activities can suffer. Formal peer mentoring can offer helpful solutions to these challenges. In addition, mentorship offers opportunities for both mentors and mentees to develop leadership skills.

A mentorship is commonly described as a partnership in which a more experienced individual assists someone less experienced. We researched the literature on the impact of peer mentorship programs in pharmacy schools and found it to be sparse and limited to tutoring interventions; however, the benefits of mentorship in pharmacy school are evident.

Considering its significance, we decided to launch a new mentorship program at Touro College of Pharmacy in Harlem, New York, for the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SSHP). Our program, which began in fall 2014, was successful because we researched related studies on mentorship, provided the mentees with meaningful interventions, and sought out motivated student mentors.

For students interested in launching their own mentorship program, here are 3 tips on how to do so effectively:

1. Set objectives

In our program, we set goals and paired first-year pharmacy students with upperclassmen in order to achieve our objectives as follows:

  • Increase interest in leadership
  • Boost confidence levels
  • Improve acclimation to pharmacy school

2. Organize meaningful and interactive activities

We provided the following various activities:

  • Tutoring sessions
  • Presentation preparation
  • Community service
  • Involvement in meetings with the New York City Society of Health-System Pharmacists (NYCSHP)

3. Collaborate with inspirational speakers

Pharmacy students were invited to attend presentations by New York State Society Council of Health-System Pharmacists president Joseph Pinto, RPh, MS, and member Vickie Powell, RPh, MS.

Powell’s presentation discussed the importance of creating a mentor relationship, while Pinto’s talk challenged students to embrace leadership roles. We believe that both presentations heavily influenced interest in the program the following year and promoted the program’s mission to produce leadership-driven students.

The Impact on Mentees

We believe our program improved first-year pharmacy students’ confidence and leadership skills and also eased their transition into pharmacy school. Increased confidence stemmed from the positive feedback students received from their mentors during their tutoring sessions and informal meetings.

Additionally, many of the mentees became mentors the following 2015-2016 school year, which was a testament to their increased interest in leadership and professional growth. Guidance from their mentors enabled early acclimation to the challenges of pharmacy school.

The most rewarding aspect of the program was the positive feedback received from the students. For example, students said the meetings helped them excel as students and gain leadership skills.

“I have grown a lot as a student since my time at Touro, and I would not have been able to do so without my mentor’s guidance,” one student said.

The Impact on Mentors

Mentors’ leadership and professional skills were strengthened, as well, through serving as role models. During meetings, mentors taught and provided personal and professional advice. Many of the pairs developed friendships that expanded beyond the program, providing great support to both mentors and mentees. Also, volunteering their time and effort to help others proved to be rewarding to their professional development.

Mentorship is a potential solution to the challenges that pharmacy students face when beginning pharmacy school. Our program at Touro College of Pharmacy was able to enrich first-year students by increasing their interest in leadership, confidence levels, and acclimation to pharmacy school. Furthermore, the program allowed our student mentors to experience the challenges of guiding an individual and learning from it.

There is a need for leaders in the pharmacy world. Providing the essential resources to students early on can encourage them to become effective leaders, and we believe mentoring can help advance the pharmacy profession.

Hoang Nguyen and Peter Hoang are 2016 PharmD candidates at the Touro College of Pharmacy.

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