Feature image courtesy of Cherie Lucas.

My teaching was peer reviewed at my previous University (Sydney), and the best advice was to draw from my previous experience when teaching. I started working in a community pharmacy at age 14 years and have continued to work and experience other areas of work in the retail sector (non-pharmacy related), hospital (HIV/AIDS specialist clinical pharmacist, RPA), pharmaceutical industry (clinical research), broadcast pharmacy, Arthritis Foundation of NSW (drug information officer) and academia. Even working from home (writing examinations and grading papers) and part-time (to keep up my pharmacy registration) whilst having three gorgeous children.

My area of teaching involves teaching reflective practice. I am constantly explaining a situation to current students and how one may deal with something unusual (that does not follow the text book scenario). I do this by drawing on my experience and explain how I dealt with the situation at the time (e.g. providing CPR, handling a situation that requires first aid, dealing with ethical issues that arise in practice, dealing with forged scripts etc). It keeps things real and the students prefer to know that their teachers in pharmacy have had these types of experiences to share. I feel that drawing from one’s experience and having class discussions about how to deal with complexities of practice, increases student engagement in a task. There are no right or wrong answers here, just choices made under difficult circumstances. If we can learn from these choices to improve future practice, then that is the best learning that can be achieved.

Even as a university teacher I admit I am still learning. I don’t know all the answers but if I can instil a sense of curiosity in my students, guide them to be the best future pharmacists they can be; provide them with opportunities within different placement settings and assist them to be self-directed with their learning, I feel that this is a start to their life-long learning journey.

How learning and teaching had changed since I was a student?

Gone are the days where didactic teaching was the only mode of teaching. Thank goodness that aspect has changed and UTS offers a wide variety of learning modes and dynamic educational learning spaces. I teach Clinical Practice and I am the Subject Coordinator for the 4 Clinical Practice Subjects across the 2-year Master of Pharmacy degree. UTS offers a unique way of learning in addition to the real life experience (my students are required to complete a minimum of 500 hours on clinical placement and an additional 90 hours on “virtual placement”). The virtual placement is a the “placement without going on placement” and we utilise the dynamic simulated learning spaces available on campus. The virtual community pharmacy experience utilises the simulated pharmacy and a robotic pharmacy system (ROWA) in the workshops and the virtual hospital placement utilises the simulated hospital rooms (located in building 10) equipped with mannequins. Being a hospital pharmacist myself, I can tell you that these rooms look authentic. The idea is that the students have the opportunity to experience the placement setting and environment before they are sent to the real life placement.

Also, another distinct difference since I was a student studying the Bachelor degree was the connection we all had with the library (not because we really wanted to hang out there but because we had no choice but to try and be the first to reserve the books we needed for our learning and to complete our assignments plus the hours of photocopying any texts that we could not take home). The internet has changed everything.

Simulated hospital rooms at UTS. Image credit: Andrew Worssam.
Simulated hospital rooms at UTS. Image credit: Andrew Worssam.

Something new I tried out in teaching in the past year…

What I really wanted to know before I left university after my Bachelor degree, was how to get that much needed job. Last year I happened to meet someone from UTS Careers whilst waiting for my coffee order at a café on campus. I started a conversation about how I would like to incorporate career workshops into my 4 subjects. This conversation resulted in the implementation of 4 workshops conducted jointly my myself and a UTS careers academic covering aspects of careers related specifically to the pharmacy setting e.g., Where to find pharmacy related jobs and addressing Selection Criteria, Interview Techniques (Hospital/Community and Industry jobs); LinkedIn profiles and other Social Media and Critiquing CVs and Cover Letters. I also offered “one-on-one mock interview sessions” to any student who was granted an interview in hospital and/or Industry. This year, UTS pharmacy students were offered the greatest number of hospital and industry intern positions ever offered in the past and the feedback from students continues to be positive that this type of inclusion into professional degrees is a must.

My next trip (for work or play) will be…

I can’t really say that I have had much time off work; an academic role is really busy (teaching/grading/researching). I had the privilege to present some research at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland last year and I have had two abstracts accepted to present research (related to novel ways of teaching and learning in pharmacy education at UTS) at the next International Pharmacy Conference in Italy this year. So I guess the next trip will be work related.

Salsa dancers in a dance pose.
Salsa dancers.

Outside of work, I am passionate about…

I have always had an interest in Latin dancing and it has only been in the 18 months that I decided to take this up and learn Salsa. The Latin dance School is literally down the road from UTS and it is a great way to keep fit, have fun and met people of all ages. It is certainly my new passion! Second to teaching of course!

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