Cicero, the Roman statesman, said, “What greater or better gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct our youth?”
That may not be the goal of the teaching certificate program offered to SDSU pharmacy residents, but many are finding it a gift to themselves and the students with whom they work.
“We began the teaching certificate program in 2012 with our first graduates in June 2013,” said Jodi Heins, a professor of pharmacy practice and director of experiential education in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions.
“We began offering the certificate to any PGY1 or PGY2 pharmacy residents in South Dakota that are at locations where we have SDSU faculty. We have also had a few nonresident pharmacists participate in the certificate program over the years. Participants are paired with an SDSU faculty member who serves as a mentor for the entire year and works with the resident to complete all of the required items,” Heins said.
Required items include giving a lecture, helping with grading and lab sessions, precepting P4 students for at least four weeks and preparing an abstract.
While that sounds fairly basic, residents can tell you a lot of work goes into that simplified list and it is on top of other duties during the yearlong residency.
Although participation in the teaching certificate program is voluntary, virtually all of the roughly 20 SDSU residents per year opt for the program, Heins said. Of the 74 graduates in 2022, there were 24 that took residencies.
Residents can be found at Monument Health in Rapid City, Avera McKennan and Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, the VA in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and the SDSU/Lewis Drug Community Pharmacy position in Sioux Falls.
Jungers: Wanted to be better preceptor
The 2021-22 Community Pharmacy Resident was Sarah Jungers, a 2021 SDSU Pharm.D. graduate from Sibley, Iowa.
“When I was applying for residencies, I was trying to decide long-term where I could see my future. I really liked that this residency had a teaching component. I could get a teaching certificate and would have the opportunity to work with first through fourth year SDSU pharmacy students.
“The teaching certificate would allow me to work closely with a faculty mentor to help develop my skills and learn how to be a pharmacy preceptor. I felt that receiving my teaching certificate would help me be a better preceptor for future pharmacy students,” she said.
Her teaching duties included helping P1 students learn to give immunizations, helping P2 students learn the basics of hospital discharge and documentation, and presenting a lecture to P3 students on continuous glucose monitoring. She also worked with faculty members Emily Van Klompenburg and Alex Middendorf to create a practice law exam for students completing their community pharmacy rotation.
Wants to instruct next generation
“I’ve had great preceptors in the last year, and I hope to utilize what I have learned to instruct the next generation of pharmacists,” Jungers said.
Ideally that would be in a clinical position that includes precepting, said Jungers, whose residency ends June 30.
As the Community Pharmacy Resident, she had several preceptors, but the ones who worked with her in teaching were SDSU faculty members Alex Middendorf and Brittney Meyer.
“I really enjoyed working closely with Alex and Brittney throughout my teaching experiences. Both have years of experience teaching and precepting students and offered lots of great feedback and advice for the future. They helped educate me throughout my pharmacy school years and it was fun being on the other side and collaborating with them,” Jungers said.
Tutoring ignited passion for teaching
Jessica Henter and Melanie Heeren were on the other side of the state for their residencies. The 2021 Pharm.D. graduates were at Monument Health in Rapid City.
Both had already experienced education from the other side of the teacher’s desk. They were chemistry tutors in their undergraduate years and later also taught supplemental instruction sessions—Henter in chemistry and Heeren in pharmacy practice law.
It was through those experiences that Henter “really found my passion for teaching. So it just made a lot of sense to continue teaching pharmacy students while being a resident among them.”
Heeren, of Pine Island, Minnesota, added, “I really enjoyed teaching (and tutoring) and hope to have a career in precepting students or teaching students of some sort.”
They said they have precepted roughly 15 students each during their yearlong residency.
Teaching a mix of challenges, joys
Precepting that many students gave them a realistic feel of what it is like to teach.
“The high points of teaching are so fun, but there are so many low points and so many struggles and challenges,” Henter said. “My time as a tutor and a supplemental instruction leader was positive. Everyone wanted to be there.
“But when you get students on rotation in maybe an area they’re not interested in, you really have to find a way to motivate them and figure out the way that they learn so it is productive. That is the hardest part.”
Heeren added, “It takes a lot of energy to teach. It takes so much energy and patience. It requires you put out energy for someone else to pick up the gauntlet and go with you. It’s a constant effort. You can’t ever slow down and stop doing that.”
Conversely, there also are the times when the light bulbs go off in students’ minds.
“It finally makes sense to them, and they get it and go on and teach others,” said Henter, of Waukee, Iowa.
More one-on-one than in classroom
She said most of the teaching was one-to-one precepting rather than formal classroom teaching. Heeren said they would spend from 30 minutes to two hours daily, and sometimes up to four hours, reviewing patient cases with P4s, going through topics and “quizzing students to see what they know or don’t know so we can fill in those gaps.”
The fact that they were P4 students themselves a year earlier helped.
Henter said, “It allowed me to have more patience knowing I was just in their shoes a year ago and I was also clueless with a lot of things and needing those awesome mentors to guide me. I try to remind myself I was just there in that position. We’ve had massive growth over the past year. It may look like we’re 100 steps ahead of them while we’re really just 10 steps.
“I’m reminding them to have patience with themselves and give themselves some grace while they go through this year.”
As Henter went through 2021-22, she opted for another year of residency at Monument, where her duties will again include precepting about 15 students.
Heeren also will stay at Monument. She is taking a position as a clinical pharmacist and hopes to include working with residents or pharmacy students.
Taking the untraditional route
Jordan Baye, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, is among the select handful who earn the teaching certificate but are not a resident.
Baye went to high school in Sioux Falls, received his pharmacy education at the University of Iowa and in 2012 completed a residency at the Iowa City VA Health Care System. That same year he returned to Sioux Falls, taking an inpatient clinical pharmacist position at Sanford Health. He found himself precepting about two students per year.
Early in his Sanford career he reached out to SDSU about precepting. “I feel responsible for helping the next generation to learn,” Baye said.
While precepting, he felt the need to “develop some of the tools and skills necessary to precept students; making sure I’m equipped with the tools I need to give them the best experience they could have. I enjoy teaching students. They made me a better person, a better pharmacist.”
Good fit with mentor important
He entered the teaching certificate program in 2014 while working full time at Sanford and raising a couple of boys with his wife.
Like residents, he completed the program a year later.
Associate professor Tadd Hellwig was his faculty mentor, which was a good fit because he was already a personal and professional friend as well as close in age to Baye. “He is a nationally recognized member of the profession with lots of experience and expertise, plus he understood what it was like to have a family and kids and try to balance things,” Baye said.
The thought of becoming a faculty member was in the back of his mind when he entered the teaching certificate program.
“Part of my long-term goal, if the right opportunity came along—and it did—that I would seek a faculty position,” Baye said.
Program created lasting benefits
The faculty opportunity arrived in 2018. He has found the teaching skills he learned back in 2014-15 are still useful.
“I have no doubt that what I learned has led me be a better instructor today. It started planting some of the those seeds about ‘how do we learn.’ It was the foundation of where I started to realize to be a good teacher is more than just getting in front of a classroom and giving a lecture.
“It is also development of the individuals we are teaching and precepting. There’s also so much involved in how you teach and curriculum. This aspect of teaching and precepting is more than just giving a lecture,” Baye said.