How I Participated on the Medication Education Team as a Pharmacy Student


I cut my teeth as a real participant in educating a medical team in a drafty psych unit at Christmastime on the island of Oahu.

I was in my final year of pharmacy school and midway through my clinical clerkship. Although many of my peers ended up in San Francisco Bay, Central Valley, and Los Angeles basin areas, the stars aligned for me to go to Oahu, Hawaii, for 9 months of practical training.

We cycled through 6 rotations, each lasting 6 weeks, to gain a broad look at the upcoming and changing pharmacy practice. We had 4 required rotations and 2 elective ones, and I chose a psychiatric rotation.

We were in a large military facility, and I clearly remember how long it took to find the psychiatric unit in this tremendous hospital. Hospitals are always in some state of construction, and there’s always one portion of the facility that’s much older than the rest. In this hospital, it was definitely the psychiatric unit. After rounding many corners, walking past vast areas of plastic sheeting hanging from unfinished walls, going down long hall ways, riding multiple elevators, and crossing an open-air bridge 10 floors high, I finally entered its doors.

This particular rotation chronologically fell during the 6 weeks spanning Thanksgiving through Christmas. At the time, I had no idea it was the peak season for psychiatric professionals.

I was the lone pharmacy student on the unit during this rotation with 3 medical students, 2 psychiatric residents, the charge nurse, and the attending psychiatrist. Meeting with them every morning was intimidating initially, but I soon received an opportunity to participate.

We were all sitting in rounds one morning as one of the residents was talking about Buspar, which at the time in December 1986 was recently approved to treat anxiety. He had a question about the medication, and the entire room turned to look at me, the pharmacy student. I was able to stumble my way through the answer; however, the attending promptly stopped the discussion and asked me to please prepare a short presentation on the topic to discuss with the group the following morning.

As students (and practitioners), this is how we learn. We’re asked questions, and if we don’t know the answer well enough to teach it to our peers, we study, research, and return to present our findings. So, I took my question back to the pharmacy office, shared it with my pharmacy student peers, and prepared a short presentation.

The next morning, I had the fantastic opportunity of presenting my first, of many, educational sessions to a group of physicians and nurses. I was surprisingly pleased at how attentive they were, listening to my words, asking pertinent questions, and engaging in meaningful discussion about the medical treatment of anxiety. At the end, there was neither fanfare nor flogging—we simply closed that portion of the meeting and went on to the next topic.

So, I cut my teeth as a real participant in educating a medical team in a drafty psych unit at Christmastime on the island of Oahu. Whatever your setting or field of study, I hope you have the opportunity to take the time to answer questions with appropriate thought and meaning. There’s great personal satisfaction in researching the appropriate answer to a question and delivering it to your team.

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