December 31, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find Out What it Means to Me

By: Theresa Carboni, Pharm.D. PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, Baltimore VA Medical Center
I remember the day I received my acceptance letter to pharmacy school. “This was it!”  I told myself.  With the letter in hand, I was now well on my way to achieving my goal of becoming a pharmacist.  As I prepared to move 500 miles away, sacrifice 4 years of my life, and pull out a loan the size of a mortgage, I never thought I’d have to earn the respect of my professors (and future colleagues). I had been accepted to the school.  If I were unqualified, I wouldn’t be here, right? Well, on the very first day, I was quickly put in my place by one of my professors.  After I tried to clarify some of the course requirements, he stated, “You will do exactly what I say. Once you have your license in hand, then maybe I will consider what you have to say.”  This incident and a few similar situations, set the tone for the next 4 years with that professor.  And, unfortunately, with a few others too. Based of this experience, I wanted to understand the impact that respect between teacher and student has on learning.
Respect is defined as a state of honor or esteem wherein there is a demonstrated willingness to show consideration or appreciation.1  Respect is an important component of professionalism.2  A professional shows respect for patients and their families, peers, and other healthcare professionals.   Key documents in the pharmacy literature define the standards by which pharmacists and pharmacy students should demonstrate professional behavior and attitudes. These documents include the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists, Pledge of Professionalism, and Oath of a Pharmacist.2   The word respect is literally written into our professional codes of conduct, the standards by which both pharmacists and pharmacy students should live up to.  Shouldn’t these codes of conduct apply to the interactions between students and teachers in (and outside) the classroom?
Indeed, respect is clearly important and a requirement within the  standards for pharmacy education. According to the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) 2007 Standards for the Professional Degree Program in Pharmacy (Standard No. 25: Faculty and Staff – Qualitative Factors), “The college or school must have qualified faculty and staff who, individually and collectively, are committed to its mission and goals and respect their colleagues and students.”3 Additionally, it goes on to state that [faculty] “should provide strategies to develop consistent socialization, leadership, and professionalism in students throughout the curriculum.”3 If faculty are required to respect students and to ensure that students uphold the standards of professionalism, then it seems imperative that it be effectively demonstrated by everyone in the academic community (administrators, faculty, staff, and students).
If respect is important, how can teachers effectively demonstrated it?  What does respect look like?  In his book “What the Best College Teachers Do”, Kenneth Bain devotes an entire chapter on how the best teachers treat their students.4  He goes on to describe how the best teachers display an investment in their students. Moreover, the best teachers have a strong sense of trust in their students by believing that students want to learn, and assume, until proven otherwise, that they can.  Above all, the best teachers treat their students with simple decency.  Teachers should treat students in the same manner they would treat a colleague - with fairness, compassion, and concern.  Bain observed that the best teachers incorporated this approach into everything they did – including what they taught, how they taught, and even how they evaluated students. In other words, the best teachers did not use their power to bend students to their will but rather attempted to build common ground based on trust, decency, and respect for what each other brought to the classroom experience.4
Pharmacists and pharmacy students are bound by our Code of Ethics5 “to respect the values and abilities of colleagues and other health care professionals.” Since we commit as professionals to uphold these standards, I feel it is imperative we start when a student enters pharmacy school  … and not wait until graduation.

1. Webster’s Dictionary for word respect. Accessed on December 15, 2010.
3. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education: Accreditation Standards and Guidelines for the Professional Program in Pharmacy Leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree. Available at: Revised_ PharmD_ Standards_ Adopted_Jan152006.pdf. Accessed on December 15, 2010.
4. Bain K. What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
5. Code of Ethics for Pharmacists. American Pharmacists Association. 1994 

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