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Week 1: The Power of Reflection by Jackie Zeeman
Week 1: The Power of Reflection
August 5, 2013 – August 9, 2013
 
As I prepared for my fourth year APPE experiential education experiences, the rotation I was most excited about was at AACP. I would start my summer off with an international rotation in Leeds, United Kingdom studying psychiatric pharmacy followed by traveling Europe throughout the month of June. I would complete my advanced community rotation in Asheville, North Carolina and then finally head to our nation’s capital for the month of August. My excitement for the AACP rotation centered around two main attractions: 1) the opportunity to be immersed with professionals who share the same passion as me for pharmacy education and training the next generation of pharmacy professionals, and 2) the opportunity to move out of North Carolina and into a big city. Growing up in a small town in North Carolina and receiving all my advanced education within the state, I have been longing for a new experience and the fast pace and progressive nature of a city aligns with the culture I have been waiting for.
 
In preparation for the AACP rotation, I naturally perused the website inside and out, from top to bottom. I read every student’s blog and thus was well aware of the central tasks I would be assigned throughout the month. I knew I would be responsible for writing a reflection each week, assist on various projects, and attend a variety of meetings and conferences. Sitting down with Dr. Adams during the first couple of days to orient myself with the association, my expectations were met: my main tasks included writing a weekly reflection and completing a larger project to be presented at the end of my rotation. My preparation had served me well and I was excited to begin my rotation at AACP. However, my excitement surrounding my weekly writing assignment changed when Dr. Adams and I met to discuss reflective writing.
 
Engaging in that discussion was one of the more challenging conversations I have participated in. Throughout pharmacy school, it is engrained in us that there must be supporting evidence for every decision and recommendation we make. We are taught a sequential order to evaluate each patient case: past medical history, current and past medications, allergies, labs, etc. And it is this systematic approach that attracts many of us to pharmacy. Pharmacy is logical: A + B will more than likely always lead to C. So how do we remove the logical and systematic approach that has been engrained in us for the past several years and tap into the emotional and reflective side of our brain? Throughout my two decades of schooling, I have had more than one assignment asking me to “reflect” on a given assignment or experience. I often viewed this task as cumbersome; all I was being asked to do was recall an experience and write about it while fulfilling the given page length requirements. Who was actually going to read all these “reflections”? I rarely received feedback on these assignments; often times it was simply a completion grade. Thus I assumed the teacher more than likely only skimmed each reflection to ensure that every student had completed the assignment. So when I learned I would be tasked with writing a weekly reflection, I had no concerns about keeping a weekly journal (so to speak) of the various tasks I had completed. That is, until I learned the true meaning of reflection.
 
Engaging in that discussion with Dr. Adams regarding reflective writing was abstract and difficult to grasp. What I learned was reflection is not simply a regurgitation or recall of an event; instead, it is an analysis of each subconscious thought and step used throughout an event and how that experience will shape future encounters with a similar situation. Sure, it is easy to recognize each step or each question used to achieve your endpoint; what is challenging is understanding the “why” behind each step and learning how to use and recognize that subconscious process in the future. For example, my friends sometimes claim I have “random” thoughts; but once I map out my thought process and how my brain rapidly went from A to B to C, I can identify the connection between each step. What I often fail to do is to identify the meaning each thought has on me personally. Why do I remember this experience in more detail than another? It must have had a significant impact on me in some regard but identifying exactly “how” or “why” it impacted me more is where I sometimes fall short.
 
Walking out of Dr. Adams office that Tuesday, I immediately realized my most challenging experience here would be reflection. As I spent the next three days searching for a topic to write on, I kept coming back to this act of reflection. What I learned was throughout the past three years of pharmacy school, I have rarely taken the time to reflect on my experience. I can regurgitate details from each therapy module, co-curricular experience, and job, but what I cannot express is how each of those experiences shaped me and my professional aspirations. I can tell you the exact moment I realized I wanted to pursue higher education and curriculum reform but what I cannot answer is how I came about this realization; it all occurred subconsciously. Whenever someone asks my story, I tell them I woke up one morning and realized I no longer wanted to pursue hospital administration but rather felt my passions lied in academic administration and for the first time, I felt excited about my professional future. I know the why, but not the how.
 
What this reflective writing exercise has taught me is I often do not take the time to reflect on my experiences. Between studying and community outreach, I am too “busy”. But what I have learned throughout this week alone is the power of reflection. Granted, I have dreaded writing this reflection since I was given the assignment and I knew I would stare at my computer screen blankly, but what I have learned is that reflection is essential to growth as both individuals and professionals. It certainly is not an easy task; in fact it has taken me over three hours to write this reflection and three days of brainstorming. But through this time, I have learned more about who I am, why I am who I am, and who I want to become. I have come to find many of the answers I have been looking for regarding personal and professional development. But the most significant thing about this discovery is that I have realized I have always known these answers, I just did not take the time to reflect and find them.
 
Moving forward, I am challenging myself to practice the act of reflection weekly, especially during my APPE months. Not only will this allow me to reflect on the challenges and learning outcomes from the week, but it will also serve as a mechanism for me to observe my personal and professional growth throughout my fourth year. It will help me to identify how I have identified what my passions are, which assignments and experiences I have enjoyed and which ones I have not. Most importantly, it will help me to identify how these discoveries will impact my future decisions and aspirations. What I look forward to most is reading these reflections upon graduation and recognizing how each experience has played an integral part in my development and in my story.

Jackie Zeeman
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
PharmD Candidate | Class of 2014

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