Student Success Starts with Self-Awareness

May 1, 2020
Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Spring 2020, Volume 14, Issue 1

What additional skills and mentorship do pharmacy students need to be successful in 21st century pharmacy? How can we make this training more mainstream?

After graduating with a doctor of pharmacy degree and completing my residency, I started working at a college of pharmacy and fell in love with education. You could say that I’ve never left pharmacy school.

As a professor and clinician, I’ve dedicated my career to helping students feel excited about and prepared for life after graduation. In 2018, I had the opportunity to work

closely with students enrolled in Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience and take a deep dive into their concerns and aspirations for their careers. I quickly realized that pharmacy school curricula prepare students for practice-ready patient care service, but students also crave additional training for personal and professional development.

What additional skills and mentorship do pharmacy students need to be successful in 21st century pharmacy? How can we make this training more mainstream?

I have taught in big lecture halls, small classrooms, fancy clinics, and poor hospitals, and I have precepted hundreds of students and residents. I have mentored many students working toward their degrees under challenging circumstances. Some lost loved ones, failed courses, and repeated rotations, and others cried tears of joy or tears of sadness. I have worked with students who matched with their first choice for residency and those who did not get a single interview; I taught students who were the first in their families to go to college.

Success is dictated not just by the things we learn in the classroom; students also need tools that are found only outside the classroom—usually discovered deep inside themselves. It starts with self-awareness.

Here are questions that I suggest students ask themselves and reflect upon as they move forward in their pharmacy education:

  • Why did you decide to go to pharmacy school? What is your motivation or drive to obtain this degree?
  • On what area of pharmacy do you envision having the most impact?
  • What experiences have you had so far that ‘light you up’? For example, conducting bench research; working in a fast-paced environment, such as an emergency department; working on projects that review formulary decisions and drug pricing; or helping patients understand complex medication regimens.
  • Do you have a mentor who can help you talk through these experiences? If you don’t, try to find one. Every time you meet new pharmacists, ask them about their career journeys. This could lead to finding a mentor.
  • Are you taking advantage of everything your pharmacy school offers? For example, attend as many alumni events as possible so you can interact with pharmacists in your area. You’ll also practice networking.

Take advantage of being a student, and be open to every experience that comes your way. Start with self-awareness and a curiosity about the pharmacy profession—you’ll already be considered a successful student.

BROOKE GRIFFIN, PHARMD, BCACP, is professor of pharmacy practice and vice chair of clinical services at Midwestern University. She is founder of 21st Century PharmD, a virtual resource for pharmacy students.