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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
education continuing education Margaret Morton, chief executive officer, Australian College of Pharmacy Practice and Management Fishing for knowledge T HE recent National Association of Pharmacy Students of Australia conference in Brisbane gave me the opportunity to revisit the passion of my first career: teaching. I love to teach and I had the pleasure of presenting to more than 200 delegates from around the country. The freshness and the enthusi- asm of youth is invigorating and inspira- tional, and to all those young people I met, thank you for the joy-filled experi- ence. These young people are the cream of our school system. They abound in intel- ligence, beauty and energy. I did, how- ever, feel that the system was guiding their energy, brilliance and enthusiasm towards mediocrity instead of greatness. Several of the young people were con- cerned that after having now completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Science or Phar- macy, their prospects of employment were limited...what a dilemma! I assured them that their career path was limited only by their own imagination and that education was the beginning of a won- derful lifetime opportunity that should help them develop their professional options and imagination. However, it seems to me that the sys- tem has negated one of its primary responsibilities—to enlighten and encour- age our youth to grow their dreams, to be creative and imagine the best career pos- sible. That the average worker may change careers between three and five times dur- ing a 40-to-50-year working life brings into greater focus the concept of taking responsibility for one’s own life learning. One of the ways to help students pre- pare for a career is to provide experiential guidance and encourage the conscious recording of shortcomings in their knowl- edge base, whether it be to meet immedi- ate work activities or future professional aspirations. The system should aim to turn out self-directed learners; individuals who embrace new learning opportunities. Continuous learning by developing a learning plan is the key to success in any career. Constructing a learning plan Each of us is responsible for our own life success and our own life learning. Many people are on the fast track. You can be too. It only takes ambition, determination and a plan of action. A learning plan should be goal-oriented, specific, action-based and simple. It might be simple enough to fit inside your pocket jotter. It could even be as uncomplicated as one goal with several steps. But without a learning plan, tomorrow will likely look like today. A learning plan builds your competencies and makes life interesting. It is a deliberate plan to make a change to be better at what you do. As the ancient biblical proverb goes: ‘Give me a fish and I will eat for today; teach me to fish and I will eat for the rest of my life.’ Students leaving university should be equipped with a passion for learning and the intention to continue learning throughout life. But new learning and passion are not just for the very young. Why don’t you learn to fish today? ¦ Steps to prepare a learning plan 1. Consider want you want from you career (your values and goals), write them down and analyse them. Do they translate into knowledge gaps? If so make these the basis for your study. 2. Do an inventory of your skills and strengths, and then work on the knowledge and practice gaps. Better to spend 20 per cent of your time improving a strength and bringing that up to 100 per cent, than 80 per cent of your time on a 20 per cent improvement of a weakness. 3. Consult your recent Quality Care Pharmacy Program accreditation or a recent performance review for indicators of professional strengths and weaknesses. If this is not possible, type ‘performance review’ into Google for factors relevant to reviewing professional performance. 4. Seek a third party to help—a friend or, even better, a mentor—and draft out the best possible goals, strategies and evaluation methods. 5. Goals should be SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and trackable). 6. Decide on the timing (start and end points) of the learning initiatives. 7. Identify strategies to practise or further study your learning goals. What can you do every day/week towards achieving your goal? How will you assess whether you have achieved the goal? 8. List your rewards (remember to celebrate small wins) Self direction steps to keep you on track 1. Know your goals and keep them handy. 2. Build on your strengths. 3. Let others know your goals and be bold in your public declarations. 4. Each current learning plan should have one SMART goal. 5. Work at your plan every day. 6. Celebrate small wins. 7. Redirect your energy when it is being wasted. 202 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 MARCH 2005