Posted on December 15, 2018 in: Member News
By Serena Kelley, Pharm.D. candidate 2019, Ferris State University College of Pharmacy
Pharmacy school can be viewed as a marathon, and P4 year is the final sprint to the finish line. As I pass the halfway point in my last year, I find it important to stop and reflect on the journey so far and evaluate the steps that have led to success and ways to improve. During the didactic portion of pharmacy school students are faced with frequent examinations, countless assignments and objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE’s) that are all intended to prepare us for clinical rotations. These are great tools to gain knowledge and assess clinical understanding, but as you approach P4 year, it quickly becomes apparent to most students how much you have forgotten and have yet to learn in order to become a pharmacist.
As daunting as clinical rotations appear, there are a few strategies and steps you can take to try and make the most out of each experience. First, it is important to remember that no one expects you to have all the answers, and it is okay to admit when you don’t know something. That being said, it is also important to try to answer every question thrown your way. Learn to trust your knowledge base and try to reason out what you think the answer might be before looking it up. You might just surprise yourself with how much you actually do know. Try to look at each unknown answer as an assignment, challenge yourself not just to find the answer, but to learn a little bit more about the disease state, medication or guidelines.
Secondly, make sure to challenge yourself and guide your own learning. Your preceptors are invaluable and want to see you succeed, but they do not know your current knowledge base. Make sure to discuss your strengths and weaknesses and set goals. Ask for topic discussions in areas you are unfamiliar with and challenge yourself to pick a final case report about a disease state you can learn the most from. Just remember, your preceptors have been in your shoes and serve as a valuable resource. Ask about their experiences as a student, resident and practicing pharmacist. Find out what they are passionate about and how they have developed into lifelong learners.
Thirdly, remember that you are not alone on each rotation. Reach out to your classmates and colleagues to ask about their experiences and strategies for success. You may discover a new area of pharmacy or learn about a new medication. As students, we are spread all over the state during our last year, but we can continue to work together. After all, in a few short months we will all be practicing pharmacists in the close-knit community of pharmacy.
Finally, keep in mind that rotations are meant to challenge you as a student, just like the didactic coursework in previous years. There will be some areas that come naturally while others remain a struggle. Try not to focus on your mistakes, but instead take time to appreciate how much you have learned since starting pharmacy school. As always, remember there is always something more to learn and another patient that you can help. Keep up the hard work, and the finish line will be in sight faster than you can imagine.