MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION
Dr. O'Connor is the advanced pharmacy practice experiential coordinator at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pa. He has taught clinical pharmacy and pharmacy management at 3 different schools of pharmacy and serves as the career counselor on the Pharmacy Times Web site.
STUDENTS STARTING OUT ON their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience leave the structured environment of the classroom for the unpredictable and sometimes chaotic world of pharmacy practice. Experiential education is much different from the classroom. Therefore, students need to develop new learning strategies in order to make the most of this unstructured environment.
During your experiential education, you will be working one-on-one with most of your preceptors. It is a lot different from the formal and impersonal nature of a large classroom. Take time to get to know your preceptors and teachers. The more that you take a professional interest in them, the more you will find the attention reciprocated.
Before getting involved with the activities and events of the experience, discuss the educational goals and objectives with your preceptor and how they will be assessed. In other words, have a plan for yourself so that you are not moving aimlessly from one task to another.
Recognize that preceptors and other members of the health care team have other things to do in addition to teaching you. You might need to get the attention of teachers, mentors, or preceptors. In this regard, show enthusiasm, ask questions, and volunteer for projects. Together, these efforts will gain the educational attention to help you succeed.
If you are in a patient care setting, always remember to focus on the patient when you answer drug information questions. If you have been asked to discuss the pharmacology of a drug, be sure to explain how the pharmacology is related to the clinical use or product selection. Your answers should always be related to the practical aspects of patient care.
Don?t forget to take your non-clinical experiences seriously. Sometimes students are so geared up for the patient interaction that learning about management and pharmacy systems takes a back seat. They are part of the practice and all pharmacists need to be competent in them too.
Don?t use the clock to decide when you start or finish the day. Each experience has its prime teaching moments, and you will want to be there for them. In the hospital setting, you may have a patient who codes or develops a drug allergy just before you planned on leaving. These are teaching moments. Put your white lab coat back on and learn from the experience.
In the patient care environment, you may see and hear things that are offensive to you. Examples include the patient with Tourette syndrome, open wounds or sores, and drug addiction or overdoses. Above all else, remember that these patients are allowing you to witness their condition in order for you to learn. Show respect for them and allow them to keep their dignity.
Finally, begin to start evaluating yourself rather than turning to your preceptor for constructive suggestions. Your experiential education is a time to become a little more introspective. At the end of each activity or task, ask yourself, ?How did I do??