“He’s definitely not the Luke Skywalker to my Yoda”: How this pharmacy owner approaches mentorship in a collaborative way with his former intern turned pharmacist
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.
Mark Cutrupi completed his internship at Nick Logan Pharmacist Advice last year after graduating from the University of Sydney. Proprietor Nick Logan took him on to cover another pharmacist’s maternity leave, an opportunity that Mark was only too keen to accept. He now works with Nick as a registered pharmacist.
Here the AJP finds out more about their professional relationship.
1. How would you describe your mentoring relationship?
Nick: “Intimidating. [laughs] The first time someone asked me to be a mentor was 20 years ago, and I didn’t think I was old enough to be a mentor.
“I was quite embarrassed about the mention of it because I’m very happy to be your friend and discuss things with you, and evolve things. But I’ve always seen the idea of mentor-like collaboration as very much a two-way street.
“The concept of reverse mentoring is very valid. In this situation I get the benefit of Mark’s fresh ideas and modern clinical information, and I think – I hope – he gets the benefit of my experience.
“Like mentorship, I’ve always found the notion that I’m a pharmacy owner quite hilarious because I don’t think you’ve ever felt like Luke Skywalker have you?”
Mark: “Not yet.” [laughs]
Nick: “He’s definitely not the Luke Skywalker to my Yoda. It’s a collaboration. I think Mark and I have similar ideologies in that we want the pharmacy profession to be a strong and evolving and respected job.
“I think you’re more likely to have an understanding in a mentor relationship if you have parallel ideologies.”
Mark: “Nick has provided the best environment I could have asked for in terms of me being able to effectively utilise my clinical knowledge and actually have it remain fresh because I get to use it every day, not just be a computer clerk.
“As a mentor, he has enabled me to use my clinical knowledge in an environment where people actually get advantages from it.
“It’s all well and good to know a lot and be very clinically proficient, but if your environment isn’t up to scratch in terms of you being able to offload your knowledge to help people, then it’s useless.
“One of the best things about working with Nick and his work environment – including the physical model of his pharmacy – is that I have the opportunity to exercise everything that I’ve learnt and actually be face to face with people, not just be stuck behind a heightened barrier with a step, where most pharmacists tend to reside and not actually go out onto the floor and have good meaningful interactions.”
2. What’s the most important way to approach mentoring?
Nick: “I very, very much think it’s a two-way street. The two most important things to establish are honesty and loyalty. They’re two things [you’ll need] because you’re going to have to critique each other, and I think it’s your communication and self-deprecation or your lack of ego that you need to be able to cope with critique.
“I think that goes both ways as well. Critique isn’t necessarily a negative thing, and being really, really honest with each other. I think we do that well in that neither of us feels obliged to big-note ourselves to each other in that situation.
“Honesty is really important but also a sense of loyalty as well, because I think mentor-style relationships always really thrives if there’s an understanding of your commitment to each other and that’s a two-way street.
If you’re lucky to be in a situation with two people who have each other’s back, then I think it can turn into a mentor situation that might not just last a year of internship, but might last five or 10 or 20 years.
“I can say that having had 28 consecutive interns – sometimes two in a year – is that establishing that honesty and loyalty with people early on means that your professional relationship flourishes, and both of you equally benefit from it.
“I subcontract my mentorship out to others too. We’re really lucky to have a group of pharmacists that enjoy collaboration and sharing positive ideas with each other. The interns we have are lucky to experience good-quality pharmacists, and they can pick and choose things in their own professional makeup.”
3. What kind of support do students and interns need from mentors?
Mark: “They need reassurance because no-one’s going to be perfect to start off with, no one is going to know everything to start off with, and you need someone who does have a lot of experience and wisdom, which Nick does.
“As I said, we feed off each other, because coming fresh out of uni there’s things that are more fresh in my mind, but in terms of the things that Nick has practised every single day of his life for decades, being able to leech off that and him allowing me to do that is probably [best].
“Also being able to offer up everything you know and not be stand-offish, being open to having your intern try and learn as much as possible, and teaching them tricks in a way that is supportive and not judgmental.”
Nick: “We established early on that we’re not going to judge – we’re going to be honest with each other but not judgmental, I think that was a good thing.
“Particularly with the advent of professional services, there’s a whole bunch of new things that we’re trying and getting better at, they’re evolving before our eyes.
“I see my role as the owner that I take full responsibility for their standards and the way they are provided. I’m ultimately responsible for everything that happens. But I’ve always thought that all of my staff have very valid and relevant input with respect to workflow and the quality of the service and the health outcomes related to the service.
“I don’t necessarily see that as a mentor-specific thing, it’s creating a culture that everyone buys into.
“People seem to enjoy their job more when they feel like it’s a collaboration rather than a dictatorship.
“I like to make a point that pharmacists develop their own professional style and it’s not up to me to tell them how they should counsel people. I can share styles or things that have worked with me, but it’s up to them as a professional pharmacist to develop their own style.”
Mark: “If I was told to practice in a certain way, I don’t think it would be a really good environment to work in and it would restrict you.
“The fact is that through working with Nick, I’ve actually developed my own style. I know what works well for me, and what works well for me allows me to do what I do well, and that might not necessarily be how someone else does that.
“Still, the fact that I’ve been able to develop a style, I actually know what my style is, is good and Nick being supportive of all types of styles provided they’re appropriate is awesome.”