As he prepares to begin his career in pharmacy, Joshua reflects on the lessons he’s learned over the past four years of his Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) degree.
1. How to study
This was something I didn’t master until the third year of my degree. Pharmacy can be really full-on and the workload can soon pile up.. That’s something I discovered pretty quickly during first year! I found it best to treat study like a part-time job and schedule in dedicated blocks of time during the week.. During these study blocks I would head to the university campus library or one of the study rooms in the pharmacy department. It can be really beneficial to separate your working space from your resting space. It was easier to enter ‘work mode’ while at university and unwind once I got home from a day of studying.
Do your best to get a strong understanding of the material given to you early on in each semester. Building a strong knowledge foundation makes it much easier to learn the more complex material that will come up later.. To give a pharmacy-related example, it is much easier to understand how a medication treats a specific disease if you have a strong understanding of the disease itself. It is also is much easier to understand how a disease affects a bodily system if you understand how that bodily system typically functions.
2. Ask for help
I really struggled with this at the start of my degree as I had heard that university lecturers are too busy to help. Thankfully, I learnt that this couldn’t be further from the truth for the JCU Pharmacy lecturers who all have a genuine desire to see you succeed. Whether the issue relates to the content or hardships you are facing in your life, the best time to ask for help is as soon as you are struggling. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to tell your subject coordinator as this severely limits the options available to you.
3. Don’t take it so seriously
It’s important to remember that the end goal of the degree is to embark on a career as a healthcare professional. Keeping this in mind is important as it is easy to focus solely on the degree and your grades, rather than the bigger picture. If you receive a grade on an assignment that you aren’t happy with, always try to learn as much as you can from it and remember that it doesn’t reflect how good a pharmacist you will be. It is also important to make time to relax, socialise and do the things you enjoy. It’s easy to get caught up with the workload and neglect your mental health and social life, but this isn’t sustainable and can lead to burnout.
4. Work together
Finding a few friends who are motivated to study can be extremely beneficial to your learning. I have found a group of two to four people tends to work best for me, with bigger groups making it too easy to get off-track. The biggest benefit of working in these groups is that everyone brings a unique perspective and understanding. If you are struggling to understand something, often someone in your group will be able to reframe it in a way that makes more sense, plus you can do the same for your group members. Group work tends to be most effective when everyone has lightly covered the material before meeting up and then taking turns explaining concepts to one another.
5. Financial support
This is one that mainly applies to those coming from rural areas to study pharmacy and something that I really wish that I knew before fourth year. The annual rural pharmacy scholarship scheme is available to pharmacy students who have grown up and gone to school rurally. This scholarship provides students with $10,000 a year over the degree, which can significantly alleviate the financial strain you can experience as a university student. For those who don’t qualify for this scholarship, I recommend checking out the scholarships offered by JCU and applying for any where you meet the criteria.