Are Pharmacy Students Responsible for their Own Basic Study Skills?

scott's thoughts Jul 26, 2022

One of our major focuses at Massey & Martin, LLC is the Student Success & Remediation, in which we guide Pharmacy Program administrators in assessing incoming students, offering those at risk of academic difficulty a chance to engage in prematriculation and, if necessary, organized remediation programs their didactic year of Pharmacy education. 

We see the current approach to student remediation in most Pharmacy programs following a recurring, and largely unhelpful, pattern:

  1. Pharmacy students are admitted to the Pharmacy program
  2. Some of those students begin struggling academically
  3. Students are provided opportunity for remediation (i.e., retake a test)
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, hoping for student success

Yet often this method fails because core problems are not addressed; a student with no time-management skills will not develop them merely because a re-test is offered. In such a case, one is simply hoping that a few extra days for this beleaguered student to squeeze in some additional study time might make a difference. 

Students need to have a “toolbox” at their disposal, equipped with time-management skills, techniques for note-taking, high-impact study and test-taking, and ways of coping with the stresses of graduate level education and avoiding burnout. We developed our program with the idea that teaching these skills before a student begins to struggle is the best way to alleviate remediation issues. The intensity of Pharmacy education can be an adjustment for even the most accomplished students, so ensuring they have the skills they need to succeed benefits both those students and your program’s outcomes.

However, we have an elephant in the room; his name is responsibility. Are we, as Pharmacy educators, truly obligated to teach our program’s students how to study, take a test, or avoid burnout? It’s a fair question. This is graduate-level education in the medical field. Are there really students reaching this level without those skills and, if so, should they be in a Pharmacy program at all? Perhaps failure is a sign that they simply aren’t cut out for this.

There are several arguments against organized and intensive remediation, and they are all valid to some extent:

  • Our students should already know basic foundational skills
  • Students lacking basic skills will fail anyway; there is no reason to invest time teaching individuals these skills. It’s better for our programs to be cleansed of students who lack basic skills
  • It’s not our job to babysit our students. Let them sink or swim
  • With an already packed curriculum, there is simply no place or time for teaching foundational skills in a graduate program

Nevertheless, the fact remains that once a student is accepted to your program, their success or failure does come within your control. There are ways of organizing a successful, interactive prematriculation and remediation programs that strengthen your students, their relationship with your program, and your program’s overall outcomes, without it requiring excessive money or faculty time. It does, however, require a paradigm shift in the way your program approaches academic success.

In the next few installments of our blog, we’ll discuss various facets of Student Success programs, Academic Coaching, and proven effective methods of remediation. Join us as we demonstrate how these solutions can be implemented in any Pharmacy Program that is ready and willing to try.


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