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Take full advantage of having a tutor

Newly qualified hospital pharmacist Lauren Rose describes what you can expect from being tutored and shares some tips for making the most of the experience

Being tutored gives you access to professional support from an experienced pharmacist, and can be a valuable learning opportunity. I have been tutored throughout my undergraduate studies, during my preregistration training and now as I undertake my clinical diploma, where I regularly have ward visits and assessments with my tutor.

Define your objectives and expectations

Every tutor I have had has been different in their style of tutoring, so it is a good idea to arrange an initial meeting as early as possible to introduce yourselves and outline your expectations. Decide how often you would like to meet, and what style the meetings will take; for example, a formal meeting or a quick catch-up. Additionally, ask your tutors how they prefer to be contacted between these meetings, because different tutors will have different commitments and schedules. Regular communication is key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your tutor.

It is important to set your objectives with your tutors, so they can help you to achieve them. You should also agree how you will present your work, and how often.

I find it useful arrange a timetable of meeting dates in advance and agree on an agenda for each one. This allows you to plan your work and independently carry out your own research before each session. Make sure you prepare lots of questions to ask or topics to discuss — I have a notebook I use on the wards to record things for later discussion.

What your tutor can be

Your tutor may be your main point of contact and he or she will act as a mentor to assess your progress and to help you meet your objectives. Tutors are often experienced pharmacists who have had tutees before, and so will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Your tutor also has a supportive role and you should feel comfortable enough to share any concerns you have. Your tutor should be approachable, so having open and honest conversations will allow you to discuss the best possible course of action and resolve any problems you may have. If you have concerns about your performance, it is likely that your tutor will have also picked up on the issue.

You should receive a balance of constructive positive feedback and suggestions for improvement from your tutor. The feedback you receive should be tailored to your performance and objectives. If you do not feel happy with the type, style or amount of feedback given, discuss this with your tutor.

Tutors should facilitate both your personal and professional development. They should be able to help identify any personal difficulties you are having, provide advice on career progression, and give recommendations for further study. Additionally they can help you reflect on your skills and maximise your opportunities.

What your tutor is not

Your tutors may have other roles and responsibilities and may be busy at certain times of the year, but try not to let this discourage you from discussing any issues with them. If you do not feel you are meeting with your tutor as often as you would like, you need to highlight this because he or she may not be aware of the problem.

However, you should not expect your tutor to spend unreasonable amounts of time following up deadlines you have missed, organising your schedule for you, or telling you what you need to do. There needs to be a balance between you independently organising your work and setting your personal learning objectives, and your tutor acting as a supportive mentor to help you achieve them.

If you do not feel your tutor is supporting you appropriately then you need to raise this with him or her directly. This may be a difficult conversation, but the sooner you address it the sooner you can work together to try to resolve it. If you feel unable to talk to your tutor about something, try to identify another colleague with whom you do feel comfortable discussing the issue. Either way, do not suffer in silence otherwise the problem will never be resolved.

Remember that tutors are there to support, develop and guide you. Make good use of their experiences and listen to their advice because they have your best interests at heart — the more you put into the relationship, the more you will get out of it.

Lauren Rose, MRPharmS, is a pharmacist at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and vice-president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138455

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