MPA | Pharmacy News

The Power of Reflection

Posted on August 15, 2017 in: Member News

By Kristin Griebe, Pharm.D., University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, 2017 Graduate

Looking back on my four years in pharmacy school, I reminisce on the time spent studying, attending professional organization events, learning facts and concepts in the classroom and applying that information to patients on experiential rotations. While I am proud of the robust knowledge and expertise I gained through obtaining my Doctor of Pharmacy degree, the most unexpected strength I acquired was the ability to learn through repetitive cycles of experiences and reflections and connect on a deeper level than before. From patients to peers, to strangers in passing, I developed a way to communicate better and understand others in a different way. Harnessing these soft skills carried me to the next level, allowing me to be more effective in implementing patient care interventions to improve clinical outcomes.

Interactions with patients provided me with the experiences I needed to practice, but that was not where the learning stopped. My mentors encouraged me to spend time reflecting on these experiences to assess and strategize how I could be better and do more for future encounters. I have never been one to journal, so I was hesitant to spend time writing my thoughts rather than spending it on tasks that seemed more purposeful. When I considered the benefits of setting aside time for reflection, I made a personal connection from another aspect of my life that helped me recognize the importance of including this process in my growth and learning. As a hockey player, I would never play the next game without reflecting on aspects of prior games, such as retrospectively thinking about how my team performed or how I played and how I can train to be better for next time. I thought, if I am constantly assessing and critiquing my performance as a hockey player, why shouldn’t I be assessing my performance as a learner and healthcare professional?

We know reflection is integral to learning and development; yet, we are reluctant to spend time on reflection due to the constant demands of studying and professional organizations. The first year of pharmacy school is the best time to start developing reflection as a habit. Think about what you learned so far and what you still need to learn. What worked best for you? How can you be a better learner in the future? Your second and third years build upon foundational knowledge; both good and bad habits are formed during these years. Spend time thinking about how you can retain what you are learning, how you would apply what you’re learning to a real patient and how you can best manage your time in periods of high demands and stress. Your fourth year is about reflecting on the clinical experiences and the interpersonal communication skills you develop. Avoid solely relying on evaluations from your preceptors as your only source of reflection and use your own reflections as guidance to build upon and improve.  It won’t be long before you are your own preceptor. Your reflections will lead you to recognize your untapped potential and allow you to fully develop in ways you never imagined. Student or not, if you find that time for reflection is falling off your schedule, consider how difficult it will be to become better tomorrow if you do not take the time to reflect on today. 

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