Digital Platform Offers Nontraditional Learning Opportunities for Pharmacy Students

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP, discusses the 21st Century PharmD and how students are responding to COVID-19.

Aislinn Antrim: Hi, this is Aislinn Antrim from Pharmacy Times. Before we get started today, one of our top stories on Pharmacy Times is about a statement from the Community Oncology Alliance, which said that they fundamentally oppose home infusion for chemotherapy, cancer immunotherapy and cancer treatment supportive drugs. According to the statement this opposition is in regards to safety concerns for patients and you can read more about it on Pharmacy Times. Today I'm speaking with Brooke Griffin, founder of the 21st century PharmD, about her work with pharmacy students. So Brooke, can you just give us an overview of the 21st Century Pharmd and what you do?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Sure. Thank you so much for having me. What I realized is that students, many students, don't feel prepared for life after graduation, and I'm providing professional development for students in a non-traditional kind of way. So 21st Century PharmD is really an online platform just for pharmacy students. What I realized is that students are looking for support and encouragement, but they're also looking for advice on how to manage life in the real world—anywhere from relationships to how to behave as a professional to personal branding. So I really started out just by writing a weekly blog post. I spent a lot of time asking students what they want, what they need, and how can I deliver it to them in a format that they would find approachable, and now we have some traction and some followers so it validated the need for this in our profession. And 21st Century PharmD is now a central hub for all types of students’ content. I still do the weekly blog post and I also started a private Facebook group so that offers students a chance for some networking, and I also interview some pharmacists in some non-traditional career roles, so students have the opportunity to interact with them as well.

I launched the podcast in January and that's been super exciting so far. The goal is to interview at least one pharmacy student from every college of pharmacy in the United States and we're on episode number 6, so we're just getting started, we have a long way to go, but it's been super fun so far. Some other things that have started recently is that now we're featuring student-authored blogs so they can help get their name out there and give them some visibility, and I also launched a new mini mastermind group just for pharmacy students, and inside that group I'll be offering some one-on-one coaching, some group coaching, and then at the end we're just going to talk about what was helpful and what can be improved for next time if I offered it again. That's fantastic.

Aislinn Antrim: Mentorship is obviously an important thing for pharmacy students. Has that aspect of education changed over time?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Yeah really good question. I'll tell you, a couple of years

ago I was working with a group of students who were just about to graduate, and I was shocked to learn that most of them did not have an identified mentor, mostly because at our college of

pharmacy we offer an assigned mentor. So we all know that an assigned mentor-mentee relationship doesn't always work; these kind of relationships have to grow organically over time. But something needed to be fixed, something wasn't right. And I think what shocked me the most is that even if the assigned mentor system didn't work, they weren't going out to find another mentor on their own. So I know every college of pharmacy approaches this a little bit differently and students do go out and find mentors on their own, but in the meantime there's a whole group of students that are looking for positive, realistic, guiding professional relationships. If you're a pharmacist listening right now, just look around you. Who are the trainees who are in your immediate circle who would be looking up to you and someone that might be a natural fit for this type of relationship? And if you're a student and if you don't have a mentor, again, look

around you if you don't have access to someone that you could ask for some advice from time

to time. It doesn't necessarily have to be someone you know really well, just who do you have access to so you'd be able to just start that conversation.

Aislinn Antrim: Wonderful. You’ve spoken with many rising stars, as you mentioned, in the pharmacy field. What unique and exciting things have you seen from them?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Especially with the podcast, this adventure has completely

surprised me probably the most out of everything I've done so far, because I have learned something new from every single guest that we've had. Several of the guests so far have been pursuing dual degrees, which is notable because they're already differentiating themselves before they even graduate, which I think is really remarkable. Just the PharmD is such a challenging degree on its own, and adding a whole other layer is outstanding. I've also had some guests that have had some really challenging personal experiences, and because they were brave and they opened up on the show about what they've gone through, it's helping other students own their own stories. So I find all the episodes really powerful and I'm usually on a high for several

days after recording because it makes me think pharmacy’s going to be okay. We're in good hands with these students.

Aislinn Antrim: Of course, coronavirus and COVID-19 is a massive issue dominating the news right now. What are you hearing from pharmacy students about that?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Lots of anxiety, yeah, and emotional roller coasters. Most students, as you know, are now living back at home, which may or may not have been great learning environments for them, so it's really hard for them to focus and balance all their home obligations with their current workload. Some students are still working on the front lines, risking infection while trying to manage all of this. Some students feel pressured to pick up extra shifts and that takes away from their study time. Many have told me that they missed the classroom, which is really interesting because for the past few years we've actually seen a decline

in attendance for live lectures. But I think they're missing that connectedness with people who have like-minded ideas, and also many students use that break in between classes for dedicated

study time, and now that the classes are a little more spread out at home and there's more virtual learning or watch the recordings on your own time, they don't have that dedicated chunk of

time that was just for studying in the past. And of course we've all heard about rotations being canceled for students who are graduating this year or next year and they need those hours in order to graduate, so there's lots of stress with that. So like everyone else their lives are disrupted and their coping skills when they get bad news or when they hit bumps in the road, it's really

challenged at this time.

Aislinn Antrim: Definitely. Can they learn anything from the current pandemic?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Absolutely. I mean, as educators, we're learning. The word ‘essential’ is being used a lot right now, we've heard it in the media, but I think you can apply it to almost every area of your life. How many hours are absolutely essential for direct patient care, for learning? How many in-class activities are absolutely essential? And everyone's looking at how they spend their time now that we're all home and we're all working from home, so we can all learn what kinds of things I’m going to allow back in my life when this is all over, and it probably won't be everything.

Aislinn Antrim: Interesting. Do you have tips for those students that are working from home and are finding that challenging?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Yes, absolutely. And I actually recently authored two blog posts about this, so those go into a little more detail. But in summary, first of all, take care of your health and whatever that means for you: drinking lots of water, getting your exercise in, caring for your loved ones. Your health is always number one. Just becoming aware of what this new stress kind of feels like, and this new stress may show up in different ways than it

has before. A lot of students are experiencing anxiety for the very first time, something that they had never experienced before. Some are talking to a counselor for the first time in their lives and that wasn’t something they had actually considered, and I encourage them to do that. A lot of universities are offering that free service virtually right now. Finding a study routine that works for you, so that includes what dedicated space of the home is mine, what little corner of the room is mine, what times of the day are quietest in the house. Maybe that's the best time to do your hardest concepts, your hardest therapeutic areas. And just giving yourself some grace that we're all in this together and we're all going to get through this.

Aislinn Antrim: Absolutely, that’s important for everyone. Lastly, how can people learn more or connect with you?

Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP: Please connect with me. On LinkedIn you can find me: Brooke Griffin. Also, you can go to my website 21stcenturypharmd.com, you can sign up for our newsletter and that's where I post the blog posts. And you can also find me on Instagram @21stcenturypharmd.

Aislinn Antrim: Well thank you so much for joining us. Now let's hear from some of our other MJH Life Sciences brands on their latest headlines.