Making the Most of Your Didactic Years as a Student Pharmacist

APRIL 05, 2018
As a 3rd year student with only a few weeks remaining in full-time didactic curriculum, I am sharing a roadmap for the journey. It may not be perfect or complete, but my hope is to provide some insight that students can appreciate.

P1 year: Start off with a strong foundation. This year will likely challenge your organization and time management skills. Explore different scheduling systems, and determine what works best for you. Relying on memory alone will likely not serve you well when trying to keep track of assignments, extracurricular events, and meetings. Even if you prefer a handwritten planner, learn how to create and RSVP to events using Google Calendar and Outlook. Many students, and faculty members use these calendar systems, and using these systems can decrease unforeseen scheduling conflicts.

Students may choose to focus on academics during the first year with a plan to get more involved later. Though academics should always be a high priority, I believe that students should take advantage of this time to develop skills in communication, patient counseling, leadership, and team building. Attend a variety of events to get a better idea of which organizations you may wish to grow within in the future. Seek out shadowing opportunities in areas that interest you.  

P2 year: Though curriculum structure may vary across institutions, this year is notoriously challenging. The P2 year will require you to apply, and hone in on those time management and organizational skills developed throughout P1 year. Approach pharmacotherapeutics with a positive mindset; it will be relevant to practice whether you are practicing in an inpatient, community, or academic setting.

As is always recommended, aim for long-term learning rather than learning for exams. This may require a different style of studying. You are ultimately learning how to treat your future patients. However, students should not expect to learn everything about a disease state the first time they are introduced to it. Learn from mistakes now, when the consequences are a matter of points and not a patient's life.

Consider whether you are motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic factors. Examples of intrinsic factors include an innate desire to learn and personal satisfaction. Extrinsic factors may include outcomes and results. Neither form of motivation is superior, and many people are motivated by both intrinsic, and extrinsic factors.

Continue to engage in extracurricular activities and take advantage of professional development opportunities. Make valuable contributions to the organizations you are involved with. If you haven’t already, try to identify areas in which you might like to improve or grow and don’t be afraid to seek help from others.

P3: Build and strengthen your network. Pharmacy is a small world, and interpersonal skills, and mentorship can help you effectively work towards your career goals. Ideally, students should start creating professional relationships as soon as possible. Faculty oversee a lot of students, and if you ever seek a letter of recommendation, you will want them to have more to say than what grade you received in their courses.

If you serve in an organization, identify your leadership style. If you have the opportunity to teach, determine your teaching style. These experiences can help you become a well-rounded, and self-aware practitioner. Think about areas in which you might like to practice, while keeping an open mind.

Explore your talents, and seek to leave a legacy by creating something novel at your school, workplace, or rotation site. This semester, I created and delivered a pharmacology review series for nursing students, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in pharmacy school.

Before embarking on rotations, organize material in a way that you will be able to access it easily. Continue the time management and organization systems identified in P1, and adapt them to your future rotation sites. Survey, and update your wardrobe. Create or purchase a pocket reference for yourself.

From 1 pharmacy student to another, I hope that you find some valuable takeaway points to make the most of your didactic training. Three years go by sooner than you think!

Adriana Hughes, PharmD Candidate 2019
Adriana Hughes is a 2019 PharmD Candidate at the University of South Florida (USF) and a pharmacy intern in an inpatient hospital setting. She is interested in clinical pharmacy and is pursuing a concentration in Pharmacy and Health Education. Her clinical areas of interest include emergency medicine and psychiatry.
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