Supporting Professional Development

Primary Contact:  Kristin Janke, Ph.D.,

Becoming a Pharmacist

What is Becoming a Pharmacist (BaP)?
BaP is a three week course at the beginning of our new curriculum. During this 14 day experience, students have no other courses. The focus is on transitioning to professional education, becoming familiar with the disciplines that will be studied in the curriculum and developing a sense of pride in the profession. Much like a professional conference, students are exposed to a variety of speakers, but they also participate in workshops and carefully designed events that help them appreciate the pharmacist’s role. For instance, students travel to communities within the state, touring practices, speaking with local health care providers and learning about the health needs of the area. The course is delivered on two campuses with strong coordination between the leads on both campuses to ensure equivalent experiences.

What approach did you use to evaluate this unique course?
As with other courses, traditional course evaluations and faculty debriefings were used to gather input on satisfaction and areas for improvement. In addition, student performance was examined. However, with over 20 faculty and approximately 70 hours of experiences, we were also interested in the impact of the sequence as it was occurring, not just at the end. Did we distribute experiences effectively? Was engagement and learning building? As a result, we added weekly “pulse checks”. These were short, 15 question ratings completed by students at the end of each week, which also allowed comments and suggestions. With these pulse checks, we were able to monitor student perceptions of their contributions, participation and engagement, as well as elements of significant learning, such as impact on “caring more and differently for others”. Instructors responded to this information as the course unfolded. However, it will also assist us in refining the course.

Strengths Education

What is the College’s history with strengths education?
Strengths instruction began in 2002 as an optional lab activity and was formalized in an elective in 2007. Based on two years of recommendations from students, strengths instruction was expanded to the core curriculum in 2009. For this work, the College received the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Innovations in Teaching Award in 2010. Strengths are now introduced during orientation and explored at various points in the curriculum.  Our Phi Lambda Sigma chapter also supports the development of strengths with two Strengths Coordinators planning events.

Why is knowing your strengths (taking the Strengthsfinder) not enough?
Students need opportunities to use and grow their strengths.  Confidence and experience in using strengths/talents may aid in developing a sense of belonging and influence feelings of engagement in the profession. When strengths/talents are used confidently, this may lead to opportunities for furthering professional development and leadership abilities. To better understand this area, we have begun work with the Strength Self Efficacy Scale.  Results of a survey with first year students showed that only 41.5% are highly confident in using their strengths/talents. Educational initiatives continue in this area.

Professional Engagement

Why is professional engagement important? 
This work complements and builds on our work related to student pharmacist professionalism. Our students self-assess five domains of professionalism; the Citizenship and Professional Engagement domain is regularly rated the lowest. To understand why, we are seeking to better define and measure professional engagement in student pharmacists. Engagement, conceptualized in various forms, is linked to positive outcomes. School engagement is correlated to academic performance. Work engagement is correlated to worker productivity and job satisfaction. Unfortunately, these other types of engagement don't adequately capture the engagement of developing professionals, which includes activity outside the classroom, but not necessarily as an employee.

Why is instrument development needed?
Along with patient care related competencies, professional engagement is a major intended outcome of pharmacy programs. By being able to measure professional engagement, educators and administrators can gain an improved understanding of the factors that influence it, the process by which students become engaged, and the impact of interventions to improve it.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Employers are interested in more than patient care competency.  Emotional intelligence is needed to work successfully on team and in leadership roles.  After partnering with faculty from Regis University to articulate an argument for EI in pharmacy curricula, we explored instruments to help us better assess pharmacy student EI as part of instructional efforts.  A  second paper is anticipated to be in print in early 2018.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Why do we need to work to advance students’ self-directed, lifelong learning skills?
K-12 and higher education may not provide many opportunities for students to direct their own learning. Often, educators assume primary responsibility for identifying learning objectives, defining learning activities and determining the metrics for success. However, when students become professionals, what and how they learn is up to them. As educators, we need to provide opportunities to practice being self-directed learners and to exercise the relevant skills.

How might Continuing Professional Development (CPD) help to enhance students’ self-directed, lifelong learning skills?
Implementing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) process provides structure and context for acquiring self-directed, lifelong learning skills. Students are challenged to determine their career goals, outline learning objectives and activities that will move them toward those goals and evaluate their progress. Moving through this cycle repeatedly, over the course of a year, exercises skills in self-assessment, learning planning and reflection. Our work indicates that after four rounds of CPD (quarterly) students report proficiency in these skills and instructor ratings concur!

Student Success


Where did this work begin?
Efforts in understanding pharmacy students are often directed at students that are struggling and require additional support. However, there is also benefit to studying excellence. Who are our best students? What are their behaviors? In this research, dyadic interviews of pharmacy faculty from eight Midwestern colleges/schools were used to identify behaviors that distinguish the best pharmacy students from the average.

What’s happening now?
We have examined student success models from the undergraduate arena and are preparing to investigate whether they hold true in pharmacy.  This will involve a two pronged approach.  First, we are interested in defining success beyond traditional measures, such as GPA and degree completion.  Variable identified during our “best students” work will likely come into play.  Second, we’d like to understand the variables that contribute to student success.  We believe that strengths-self efficacy and professional engagement are two important components.  Our work in these two areas prepares us well in assembling a student success model for student pharmacists.