Pharmacy & Nutrition students get useful public-speaking lessons
By Michelle Boulton
Contemporary pharmacists are concerned with a lot more than pills. They are taking on an increasingly consultative role with patients and collaborating with teams of health-care providers to improve the quality of care.
To fill that role effectively, pharmacists need to know a great deal more than how to prepare medication and its effect on the human body. They need to know how to communicate that information to their patients.
To ensure that future pharmacists and dietitians graduating from the U of S will have the communication skills they will need, the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition has for many years made public speaking training a requirement for graduation.
In fact, since 1985–86 all second-year students have taken part in a Speechcraft program offered by Toastmasters. The program is delivered by volunteers from local Toastmasters clubs and is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc. and United Pharmacists Enterprises.
Speechcraft was designed to teach public speaking and leadership skills to non-Toastmasters. In addition to classic public speaking presentations, participants practise impromptu speaking. This art of thinking on one’s feet – organizing thoughts quickly and voicing them concisely – is vital in getting ideas across in daily conversations, meetings, networking, and job interviews.
Participants also practise effective evaluation and giving constructive feedback to others.
Recognizing the value of effective communication, Linda Suveges, the college’s Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, says Pharmacy and Nutrition has even changed the way it screens applicants. Admissions are no longer based on academics alone, she says.
In 2000, the college began using a Test of Critical Skills to evaluate critical thinking and communications skills. Although this new admissions process hasn’t been in place long enough for an evaluation of its effect on graduates, Suveges says she and her colleagues have noticed the difference in the aptitude of students in the college.
Ken Manson, a second-year pharmacy student who has experience in pharmaceutical sales, was already comfortable speaking in front of large groups, but he is glad the Speechcraft training was a mandatory part of his program.
“Originally I felt that, because of my background, I should be exempt or it should be optional,” he explains. However, Toastmasters helped him refine his skills and build on what he already knew.
“They have a very positive atmosphere and I felt motivated by the constructive criticism.”
Manson also acknowledges that many of his classmates “have little or no public speaking skills” and that Speechcraft is “a great way to provide them with the tools and foundation they need to be successful communicators in our field.”