PharmD Students need to Develop Confidence and humility

During our PharmD training, we are expected to develop many skills. We often find ourselves pushing the limits of our individual comfort zones, attempting procedures and tasks that we have less than mastered. And to deal with these potentially anxiety provoking situations, our pharmacy culture teaches us to develop our self-confidence, and to do it quickly. In doing so, we move beyond our insecurities, with the hope that those around us—our patients, in particular—will feel assured in our capabilities. There is, however, a danger in this pursuit.

As we force ourselves to know more and to do more,we risk becoming overconfident and tempted to push the boundaries of our abilities too far. Also, overconfidence can have a negative effect on our personalities and on how we treat others.Of course, patients want their physicians to be highly competent and confident. But they also want, and deserve, doctors who are introspective, who know their own limitations,who will actively learn to fill in knowledge gaps,and who understand their role within the health care team and within their community. As such, the 2 definitions above need not be mutually exclusive.With proper self-awareness, PharmD trainees  will nurture both confidence and humility.

Here are some suggestions for working toward this goal:

Be introspective
A good pharmacist should be self-aware. Have you ever taken a step back and evaluated yourself in clinical encounters or in everyday situations? Is your knowledge up-to-date? How are you handling challenging circumstances? How does your personality change when you are tired? Are you treating others with respect? Are you sure? Reflecting on questions like these develops self-understanding, and you should take the time for such introspection.Some of us find that scheduling self-reflection is the best way to ensure it occurs. Perhaps you can take 5 minutes at the end of the day or ponder these thoughts during your next jog. Try to build evaluation into your weekly routine.Call it your “personal growth time,” or, if you happento be fond of acronyms, PGT.

Know your weaknesses and work to improve on them
During these personal growth times, think about your weaknesses. Avoid approaching this as an interview- type scenario, where you turn your weaknesses into strengths. Instead, be brutally honest with yourself.Think about your weaknesses within the different dimensions of your life: medicine, personality, finances,physical health, relationships, spirituality, etc. Keep a running list of each and consider ways in which you could improve. And when you are feeling really brave,share your list with someone. It will motivate you, and others will begin to notice the difference!

Keep learning
No matter where you are in your training or career, there is always more to learn. For many of us, the most useful and interesting way to learn is around our cases. Be humble enough to take a moment to look up the various considerations in the diagnostic and management plan about which you are unsure. With the widespread availability of Palm devices and Internet-based medical programs, the answers are right at your fingertips. Also, as you go through the day, create a list of questions you can look up that night. This way, you will be studying topics you are actually interested in, and, most important,your patients will benefit.

Having a healthy balance of confidence and humility can help a PharmD become a superb pharmacist and can help an experienced pharmacist become an even better one. Creating this balance requires effort and patience. I hope some of these strategies will benefit you, your co-workers, and, of course, your patients.

1. Soanes C, editor. Compact Oxford English dictionary of current English. 3rd ed.
New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2005.