Entitlement and employability among future pharmacists: Part 1

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I have been a faculty member for more than 17 years. During this time, pharmacy education has dramatically changed. The entry-level doctor of pharmacy degree is mandatory, and pharmacist training is patient centered. Lecture-based education has transitioned into student-directed learning.

Experiential education occurs early, and the abilities to think critically and solve problems are emphasized. Education is not all that has changed, however; students have changed as well.

Many students today have an underlying attitude of expectation that can become entitlement. This could be a character trait of generation Y—people born in the mid-1980s to 1990s. These students are tech savvy, achievement and team oriented, and attention craving.

These traits enable incorporating evidence-based medicine and informatics into pharmacy curricula. Generation Y students welcome multidisciplinary work environments as well as advocacy for the advancement of pharmacy practice. These students are eager to stand out in a crowd, engage in community service, and think outside the box.

Challenges come along with teaching generation Y students, however. These students expect to control their education. They sometimes do not respond well to boundaries and rules. Generation Y students want to negotiate these guidelines, view some deadlines as optional, and value work–life balance.

Generation Y students feel that they have the right to express disagreement with boundaries and rules. I have been asked to change test schedules to accommodate one student and to defend administrative decisions. I have also noticed an implication that a student’s failure is a shortcoming of faculty rather than the student.

Overt defiance, disagreement, argument, and lack of respect are the ugliest parts of entitlement, and contemporary education sometimes enables these behaviors. Pharmacy educators strive to be adaptable and tolerant. We modify educational approaches, provide feedback, and offer reassessments and remediation for students. We believe that if our efforts results in well-trained, ethical, and competent pharmacists, these steps are worthwhile.

Rightfully so or not, faculty often extrapolate the impression given by some students to all. Outstanding students can set themselves apart, however. Student pharmacists should maintain high standards of professionalism by replacing attitude with gratitude. Students should expect and insist that their peers maintain these standards and cultivate a positive and professional image.

Faculty members and mentors can help too. We are the role models for future pharmacists, and we also must walk the walk and talk the talk. Instead of helping students avoid barriers and rules, we should remember to help them work within those constraints.

I will explore the connection between entitlement and employability in more detail next month.

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