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Friday 4 August 2017 9:19pm

Karen Crisp accepts the inaugural 2016 Community Preceptor of the Year award at the School of Pharmacy's Green Cross Health Award Ceremony. Here is what she has to say.

"Don't settle for mediocre in pharmacy, be the best pharmacist for your patients that you can be, every day. "

How long have you been a preceptor for the School of Pharmacy, University of Otago? Moreover, what made you want to become a preceptor?
As long as I can remember , we have taken undergraduate students for placements. Then Interns for the last 3 years. 4 years ago we redesigned and expanded our pharmacy and created a pharmacy which was then able to offer a wider range of patient focussed services. I have a supportive caring team so I am pleased to be able to offer an even better experience for students and Interns to train in. I nearly gave up pharmacy after a poor internship year experience so I know what a difference a good pharmacy experience could make.

What are your main goals when receiving a new student? What do you hope they will achieve?
I have noticed increasingly that students may not have spent any or much time in a pharmacy before so I feel that it is more about showing undergraduate students the range of services and opportunity in pharmacy so they feel excited about their future career. The pharmacy degree is hard work and I am sure it helps if the students have placement experiences which motivate and inspire them to keep knuckling down and toughing it out to achieve their end goal. I want our students to be surrounded by a supportive team so that they feel welcome rather than overwhelmed or isolated. We also aim to tailor the experience to their individual learning needs and style.

Our interns spend time learning every part of our business across community, resthome and robotic services so that they feel as confident as it is possible to feel as a new pharmacist, by the end of the year.

What advice can you offer other preceptors when training students?
Treat under graduate students and interns with respect and as the future of our profession (which they are). Find out how much time they have spent in a pharmacy before and listen to how they are feeling about their progress to date. Be prepared to make enough time to spend with them if you feel as if they don't really understand the wide range of opportunities that pharmacy offers. Paint the picture for them because their time with you is short so you are trying to inspire a thirst for them to want to get out into the pharmacy world and be great pharmacists, as much as just ticking the boxes on their placement work programme. With Interns, intervene early if there are problems and talk to the Evolve programme. This is a TOUGH year for Interns and their success can be because of us or IN SPITE of us. The better job we do as preceptors, the stronger pharmacy will be as a profession in the future.

What are some of the highlights from training our students?
The highlight of having students , for me, is when I talk to them about all the amazing opportunities we have as pharmacists and see it dawning on them about what their future could look like. Sometimes they go from not even knowing what a community pharmacist really is , to being thrilled at their future career opportunities. With Interns but also with undergrads, it is seeing them build confidence talking to/with patients. We have some absolutely AMAZING young people doing pharmacy and it is a privilege as one of the 'older generation' pharmacists, to see how engaged they are and how hard they work. The student who baked a cake with our pharmacy logo on to thank our team, the student who biked across town in the rain to keep attending his placement because the family car was out of action. Caring committed young people- it keeps me inspired to keep doing my best for pharmacy so that they have a good world to graduate into.
With Internships my favourite is the project when they work with an individual patient to build a medicine management plan. They see the real difference they can make to patients and I have seen my Intern's faces light up talking about the patients and feeling the real sense of care and responsibility for better health outcomes.

The other highlight is seeing that moment when they go from feeling 'I don't know if I am cut out for this' to realising that they CAN do it and are going to love being a pharmacist.
Best highlight is employing my Interns as qualified pharmacists (they are patient focussed and well trained!)

How important do you see your role as a preceptor?
I think it is incredibly important. They are the future of pharmacy and we need them to be excited about studying hard and achieving their goal of becoming pharmacists. A good placement experience can set the benchmark…. And they should never expect less than that in their future. So hopefully the fact that they have had quality placement experiences, will raise the bar for pharmacy in the future as our young colleagues have high expectations. That is why I think the team approach is so important, all my staff contribute to our Interns having as good an Internship experience as possible and I expect all my staff to support our staff so my role is also about team Intern culture not just about the Intern. It is very important for my own professional and business development to keep in touch with the development of our future employees!

Is there anything the School can do to support your role better?
I have found the process of having student placements to be very smooth and I haven't needed support, but it is important that the School listens to student feedback about how they are finding their placements and if they are not coming back feeling optimistic about their futures, you may want to look at whether their site has provided a useful experience or not.

You have been voted one of our best preceptors for 2016, how does that feel?
It is a HUGE compliment because (my understanding is that) this is from student feedback. It feels like success to me , when students who have worked with us feel positive about pharmacy and hopefully want to become the best pharmacists they can be. These are my young colleagues and the future of a profession which I have loved all my working life. Very cool indeed!

Do you have any further comments?
A big thank you for this recognition which means a lot to me personally and to my team. To the young future pharmacists I would say, being a pharmacist is not just a job. It is a profession and right from P1 you and your colleagues, young and old should be united in a common purpose and respect each other's abilities to work toward that purpose. Don't settle for mediocre in pharmacy, be the best pharmacist for your patients that you can be, every day.

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