“I’ve learnt a lot – if not almost everything I know about pharmacy – from this guy”: An intern and pharmacist mentor share their experiences building a positive learning relationship
Welcome to AJP’s series on mentor-mentee relationships. If you are interested in being featured, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.
Peter Nguyen, pharmacist in charge at Discount Drug Store Menai in Sydney, has taken intern Jackie Zhai under his wing during what has been a busy year for the pharmacy.
They recently began administering Covid-19 vaccinations, which has certainly ramped up the workload, while some staff members are now having to get tested every three days. However the pandemic hasn’t gotten in the way of sharing crucial mentoring experiences.
Jackie, who recently graduated from the University of Technology Sydney, previously worked at DDS Menai as a student and said he feels lucky to have been able to continue onto an internship at the pharmacy. Here the AJP chats with both Peter and Jackie about their mentoring relationship and why it works so well.
1. How would you describe your mentoring relationship?
Jackie: “That’s a good question. My relationship with Peter is a good one to say the least. He’s a fantastic mentor and I’ve learnt a lot – if not almost everything I know about pharmacy – from this guy.
“During all that time, ever since the very beginning, he’s always shown me as much as he could. He always included me in various discussions and taught me ways to improve customer service and not just about the clinical side of pharmacy but everything in between.
“We do so much here at the pharmacy, he’s let me dive into pretty much every much aspect of it. We do all kinds of professional services from things like DAAs to sleep apnoea, compounding, OCP and things like that.
“He always pushes me to learn everything and he always tells me not to be shy and to dip my feet into a little bit of everything, and I’m really grateful for that. It’s really given me more opportunities and chances to learn about other things that other interns might not have had the chance to do because of their workplace and because of the passion and drive of the mentor. So – Pete’s really great!”
Peter: “We have a good time, we have fun. We understand each other, and we share very similar views and processes on how to do things, so that makes it a lot easier to mentor someone who shares that already.
“For myself, I always enjoy taking on that mentorship role and I’m always open to new ideas, new knowledge that they bring as well, new perspectives – that’s quite important to be open to new things including changes, because things are always changing in pharmacy, so you have to be open to and adapt to those changes, I think. I take away bits and pieces from each intern or student and then try to improve myself as a pharmacist too, I feel that’s quite important.”
2. How do you approach mentorship?
Peter: “I try to take the student or intern on how I was taken on. I’ve been a pharmacist for over 10 years and I still remember how I was mentored by my preceptor, and that helped me become who I am. So I try to instill that same methodology into students and interns, trying to give them that confidence, trying to educate them, give them as much information as they can – because a lot of placements don’t really provide that – and then almost letting them [be] free and show them how we do things so they can actually see how pharmacy really is.
“There are a lot of negative associations with pharmacy, so depending on where they are, we like them to see the best part of pharmacy.
“Also, having that two-way communication; just being honest and open with each other; being very supportive. I think from the start if you have that then it helps you get along with them. And I guess trying to instill the same passion into them too. If you’re willing to take on that mentorship, and if you have that passion that you’re still in community pharmacy, then why not try to instill those same beliefs into the next generation of pharmacists? Try to share that with them, share that knowledge with the next generation, so that they can continue to allow that patient to have that best customer experience, to improve their health outcomes.
“Both parties will enjoy it more if they’re having a good time and they’re both putting their all, their 100% into it, so I think that’s important.”
3. What is your advice for interns and students about how to make the most of a mentoring experience?
Jackie: “My tips and tricks would be, firstly, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor about almost pretty much anything you need, because chances are they’re going to be more than happy to help you. Peter has been more than happy to give me [advice] on pretty much every aspect of pharmacy.
“If there’s anything you want to pursue, or that you’re passionate about or interested in, or any other fields of pharmacy that you don’t have much experience of, or just more opportunity to do things, I’d say: go ahead and ask, because if you don’t ask you won’t get that opportunity.
“But if you put yourself forward and ask for these opportunities, I’m sure they’ll be given to you and that’s how you grow as an intern and how you prepare yourself to the fullest to become a good pharmacist once you finish your internship—so take all the opportunities you can.
“With your mentor, definitely develop a good relationship and have a good understanding between each other; chat more often and include your mentor in your thought processes and your actions throughout the day, just let them know what you’re doing and how you can improve on certain things, see how they do theirs and find ways to improve your own processes. That way, once you become a pharmacist, you’ll be more confident in the things that you do and you’re able to transfer all that knowledge into practical skills as well.”