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Frequently Asked Questions

Challenging Student Interactions FAQs

Answer: Prepare yourself with the following:

  1. Setting expectations
    • Establish expectations early and often.  Make clear what goals are to be achieved, how they are to be accomplished, and when they are to be completed. 
    • Provide a written course outline, syllabus, calendar or detailed rotation description as a reference point.  Make note of expectations established through verbal interactions, and use these notes as reminders for follow up.
    • Remember that the student has expectations as well.  Ask the student for personal goals for the rotation and inquire about the student’s preferred communication and learning styles.  Incorporate this feedback into the learning experience where possible.
  2. Holding the conversation
    • Stick to the facts.  Be specific and ensure that feedback is based on direct observations. 
    • Ask questions and be prepared to listen.  Avoid making assumptions about the student’s thought process or intentions.
    • Stay focused on the issue at hand.  Know in advance what you really want to accomplish with the conversation and stick to the topic.  Redirect the conversation when necessary.
    • Establish a mutual purpose, where both preceptor and student can agree on the outcome.  Where reasonable, ask the student for ideas for resolution of the issue at hand.  Brainstorm strategies together to develop a plan.
  3. Anticipating responses
    • Always provide feedback in private.  Students may become embarrassed about the feedback they are receiving and you want to make sure they are getting it privately.
    • Pay attention to the student’s response.  Silence, sarcasm, avoiding, labeling, attempting to control, or attacking are signs that the student may be defensive about the feedback you are giving them.  Provide concrete examples to demonstrate your feedback and ask for their thoughts.  Restore safety when these cues are recognized. 
    • Expect students to ask how they can improve.  Make sure you provide them with goals and a timeline to achieve those goals. 
    • Always end on a positive note. Include the positives and what they are doing well.
    •  It helps to make the student feel that they can achieve the goals/metrics set in the meeting.
  4. Following through
    • Make sure that you follow-up with the timeline and goals that you provided the student. Consider scheduling a meeting on your calendar to make sure that you have dedicated time to address. A student will respect that you are sticking to the plan as well.
    • If a student does not meet the expectations that were laid out and agreed upon, make sure that the consequences are clear.

Answer: Consult with the school/college of pharmacy as soon as you determine that there is a problem. They may be able to provide additional information about the student’s history, learning style, and ways to better engage the student. Recommend maintaining regular communication with the school. Agree on a plan for the student including goals and a timeline on when you will assess progress.  It is important for the school to know you are having difficulties early in the rotation so that personnel from the school/college of pharmacy has time to intervene if necessary.

References and sources for more information:

  • Grover B, Hayes B, Watson K.  Feedback in clinical pharmacy education.  Am J Health-Syst Pharm 2014; 71: 1592-6.
  • Lloyd M, Watmough S, O’Brien S, Hardy K, Furlong N. How to give and receive constructive feedback.  The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2016.
  • Patterson K, Grenny J, McMillan R, Switzler A.  Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.  2nd ed.McGraw Hill: New York, 2012.

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