Dr Rhiannon Braund – Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Dr Rhiannon Braund (School of Pharmacy, University of Otago) – Prime Minister’s Supreme Award winner 2012.
While to most the idea of a pharmacist is a little old man in a white coat who counts the pills from big bottles, the role of the pharmacist is now recognised as an expert in medicines, a health professional in their own right, with extensive training and advanced clinical skills.
Our students are not simply studying to pass an exam; they are already “pharmacists in training”, which comes with many responsibilities and opportunities to positively impact the health and wellbeing of those around them.
What makes me an exceptional teacher is not actually about ME at all. It is about creating situations that allow our pharmacists in training to evolve into competent, autonomous health professionals: pharmacists who I am proud of, pharmacists who I am confident will advance the profession, but most importantly pharmacists who will improve medication and health outcomes for their patients.
My job as an educator is to help our “pharmacists in training” become competent, autonomous health professionals. To produce autonomous professional pharmacists, my role is to be a guide along their own journey by helping them “connect the dots” rather than being a “knowledge dispenser”. I guide them to connect the dots between the theory and practice, the University and the profession, medications and patients, and provide them with a context for professionalism.
To develop our autonomous health professionals they need to be engaged in active and deep learning and be problem solvers, so I set up situations where they “solve the puzzle” for themselves. One of the sessions I teach is identifying types of adverse drug reactions, and what these may present as. This used to be taught as a lecture with a series of images, and an academic “commentating” on various features.
I modified this to a workshop “task” where groups of 3 to 4 students were given six pictures, and six medication datasheets. They then had to identify features from the images to guide their decision about which medication was most likely to have caused the problem. This allowed them to “connect the dots” for themselves between the type of skin reaction they were seeing, what the underlying cause could be and which drug would most likely be causing it.
In my teaching I enable my students to always act for their patient’s best interests. As autonomous health professionals, they must always make decisions and recommendations that are in the patient’s best interest.
A significant part of this is to understand and empathise with the patient. In some situations the patient’s best interest may conflict with an individual’s personal, religious and cultural beliefs.
A pertinent example is in the reproduction module that I coordinate. Our “pharmacists in training” have significant diversity in their personal, cultural and religious beliefs, knowledge and understanding about the male and female reproductive processes, contraception methods and sexual behaviour.
However, as health professionals they need to be competent, understanding and professional in their approach to their patients and the patients’ needs. My main strategy here is to create a respectful, honest, trusting learning environment. This is particularly important in allowing our students to grow their confidence and autonomy. I enable my students to listen and respect the differing perspectives, by creating situations where students feel safe discussing areas that may be difficult. In one of my lectures we discuss that while some belief systems do not “approve” of contraception and that everyone has their own personal beliefs, as a health professional you need to put the patients’ needs first. As an example we talk about the “emergency contraceptive pill” (ECP or morning after pill, which is a pill that prevents pregnancy up to 72 hours following unprotected sex). Some of our students would find it difficult to recommend this medication as it may go against their beliefs, and so we discuss that while they are not obligated to provide this, as a health professional they must advise the patient where they can obtain it from and be non-judgemental. One aim of my teaching is to increase the awareness of the diversity of our students (and patients) and actually embrace it, rather than ignoring it.
The way that I achieve a safe learning environment is to make sure that the students are never put down, and that every question is answered honestly and that there is no such thing as a “silly” question.
I am able to use my personal life to engage students and enable them to have a deeper understanding, for example to engage the students in the topic of pregnancy (which is still a foreign concept for our young pharmacists in training). The aim of this was to help the student connect the dots from anatomy and physiology lessons, to changes in the body during pregnancy and to the body’s metabolism of medications. I became their “case study” and re-lived my pregnancy for them. I showed photos of the progressive growth of the “baby belly” and related these images to the timeline of fetal development and teratogenic effects.
My involvement in the teaching of pharmacy extends much wider than our undergraduate students. I maintain an active research area in medication usage and medication wastage and currently have several PhD students, clinical masters students and other research students working with me.
I have been involved with the New Zealand Police’s Dare to Make a Choice program, and volunteer my time teaching primary school children good habits regarding the safe storage and handling of medications.
I have worked with the Pharmacy Industry Training Organisation and led a project with them determining the training needs of pharmacy staff across New Zealand, and in the modifications and revision of the NZQA review of pharmacy training.
I have been working with a group representing the Australasian Pharmacy Schools in their Teaching and Learning Outcomes for Graduates Project.
I have been a representative on the Preregistration Assessment Board (PRAB) of the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand that recommends registration of pharmacists, and was on the organising committee for the International Life Long Learning in Pharmacy Conference in 2011.
In summary, my approach is to set high standards and expect professionalism from our “pharmacists in training” by using relevant examples to make concepts accessible to our diverse group of students, while letting them “connect the dots” for themselves in a safe, open environment.
I do this by creating situations in which the students take responsibility for their own knowledge and professional development. It is about getting the students engaged, involved and actively learning. I am told that it is my attitude to the students, my passion for the profession, my enthusiasm for teaching and my reflective processes that make me extremely successful in the facilitation of student learning outcomes.
Peer and student comments
She has also successfully managed being PSNZ [Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand] regional president, researcher and supervisor, course coordinator, dispensing tutor, lecturer as well as a devoted mother. For this reason, as a young woman it is inspiring to have someone like Rhiannon as both a mentor and lecturer...... Dr Braund deserves to be recognised as a motivating, accessible and deeply caring teacher.
KA, Letter of support, BPharm graduate 2010.
As a Mäori student, Rhiannon was always willing to listen to my perspective…..She had an awareness and sensitivity toward cultural diversity that made her stand out among her fellow staff… it helped me to develop the ability to look at situations from all angles rather than having a one sided view
TJ, Letter of support, BPharm graduate 2008.
As a lecturer and tutor she takes her time explaining, she sets a good pace but doesn’t rush difficult concepts and always has time for students if we need to spend a bit longer on something. She is always up for a laugh, is very approachable and makes students feel comfortable around her with her friendly nature. She is easy to understand and makes her teaching interesting for us, she integrates points and uses lots of examples to make learning as enjoyable as possible for us.
FB, Collated comments from the OUSA teacher of the year award 2008.
Rhiannon has been a mentor and role model to me, and supported my development as a new teaching academic. Her gentle guidance has been instrumental in helping me to establish myself as a teacher and as a pharmacist. From the beginning Rhiannon has been great for providing practical advice about materials, preparation, and running a classroom. Over the years this advice has changed, so that she now prompts me to challenge myself in different ways with my teaching. She is always happy to take time to discuss different ideas or strategies and to provide guidance and oversight where needed.
KC, Professional Practice Fellow (Colleague since 2008), BPharm graduate 2004.
Pharmacy is a challenging subject to teach – it involves the integration of science, social science, and clinical practice, and an understanding of all these subject areas is required for effective teaching in pharmacy. Dr Braund has a BPharm and BSc (Biochemistry), a PhD in Pharmacy, hospital and community pharmacy practice experience, and she contributes to professional bodies. This wide ranging background, together with her excellent teaching skills, makes her an outstanding teacher in pharmacy who is highly appreciated by students well into their careers
CS, Senior Lecturer (colleague since 2008)
Ultimately her focus is to produce graduates who are not only life-long learners but are also professional persons who will recognise the importance of remaining competent and thus “safe” to practice. This is the best that any of us who are involved in the education of our future pharmacists can strive for
AO, Professional Practice Fellow (Colleague since 2003).