All pharmacists have a responsibility to continue their professional development. How many turn their learning to their business?
By Mike Boivin BSc.Phm.
Illustration by Martin Bregman
Every year, thousands attend pharmacy conferences and hundreds challenge certification exams such as the certified diabetes educator. Although this education can improve their knowledge on a wide variety of topics, for it to be truly effective, it must be put into practice.
Let your practice drive your education
All too often pharmacists pick continuing education topics based on availability and not on their learning needs or the demographics of their patients. If a pharmacist has a practice that predominantly serves older patients, learning should focus on skills and education tailored to this patient group.
Start every continuing education by visualizing a patient
A tremendous amount of content can be offered in a one-hour presentation or an online lesson. It becomes difficult to retain all of this information and implement it into your daily practice.
If you are attending a CE activity, try to visualize several patients from your practice with the condition. Then ask yourself:
- What three to five points from this presentation/lesson can help provide better care for my patients?
This allows for a targeted approach focusing on gathering information you can implement immediately, versus trying to learn it all.
Focus on location over content
The number of conditions managed by community pharmacists is exploding, and it’s impossible to remember all of this content. It’s becoming more important to know where you can find the answer to a problem when you need it.
Real-time access to information is what differentiates great pharmacists. Information access can be improved with a variety of simple tools. For instance, Evernote (https://evernote.com/) or OneNote (https://www.onenote.com/) allows you to store any notes, presentations, guidelines, and articles in a repository that is accessible on any internet-based computer or smartphone. A great feature with these tools is that you can share them with other members of your pharmacy team. Even simply having a few folders on your dispensary computer with this content can make it easy to find an answer when you need it.
Pharmacists are bombarded with paper. Although there is something comforting about having a tool in your pocket that you can pull out any time, there are simply too many conditions to have a tool for each of them.
Whenever possible, ask for a digital version of content for patient care or education. Having all your tools as PDFs, PowerPoints and Word documents allows for indefinite storage and searchable content that can be easily found in real-time when a patient is presenting with an issue.
The next time you find a presentation or lesson useful to your practice, download a PDF of the content. Knowing that you have all of this content at your fingertips allows pharmacists to have the confidence to make decisions for optimal care.
Quick tips when attending a conference
- Look at the learning objectives and the speaker. Many pharmacists pick a conference session based on its title or topic. The learning objectives provide insight on what you will learn. The speaker can many times trump topic; a great presenter can make even the mundane topic interesting.
- Look for ‘how-to’ topics. Some presenters provide real insight on how to incorporate a topic into practice. They provide the practical steps to help you implement your learning.
- Mix business with clinical. Whether you’re a staff pharmacist, owner or manager, try to take in some business topics as they can help you look at your practice differently.