Pharmacy students gain life skills through Toastmaster’s Program
Since the early 2000’s, Dr. Linda Hensman (Dean, School of Pharmacy) has recognized the importance of public speaking as a life skill, no matter which career path you follow.
“I’ve always recognized the need for students to have formal training in public speaking,” said Dr. Hensman. “Often community pharmacists have to give presentations at conferences, and require public speaking skills at some point, no matter where they end up working.”
Since there wasn’t space in the program’s curriculum, she began exploring the idea of collaborating with Toastmasters – the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to developing effective communication and leadership skills.
“I approached David Morrissey of the Cabot Toastmasters Club in St. John’s twelve years ago wanting to know if he would facilitate a program similar to that which was being conducted at the University of Saskatchewan at the time,” she added. “He was agreeable and the program was first offered as a part of the Professional Practice course in 2001, and we’ve been including it as a required course component every fall since then.”
All students are required to complete the program as part of the requirements for Pharmacy 2650 unless they hold a certificate in public speaking. The program begins on the second Saturday of the semester for an introductory session, and is followed by five sessions on Tuesday evenings. They are required to participate in a variety of speaking scenarios, which emphasize different presentation skills.
Mr. Morrissey said that each student approaches the program with a degree of apprehension that’s synonymous with previous exposure.
“The programs we run are designed to meet the unique needs of each individual client group, however, the generic configuration typically involves sessions that include impromptu speaking, overcoming nervousness and situational speaking exercises, such as speaking with sincerity and vocal variety,” he explained.
“Our main objective is to put everyone at ease,” he said. “We insist that each group develop mutual support and above all, to have fun. Individual feedback is also intended for each group. Overall, there’s a tremendous improvement in their speaking abilities.”
Terri Genge is coordinator of Pharmacy 2650, and completed the program as a student herself in her first year of pharmacy school. Therefore, she can identify with its importance from both the educator and learner perspective.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see the students’ transformations from the beginning to the end,” she said. “These students will be professionals and they need to be able to communicate effectively to patients, health professionals, and the community. By the end of the six weeks they are engaged in providing and receiving constructive feedback which are very important skills for any professional,” she said.
Since the students in the class will be working together for the duration of their degree, the program is also an effective way to allow them to become more comfortable around each other and develop a strong peer community.
Kaitlin Mitchelmore completed the program last month and said that one of the main things she acquired was confidence.
“The program’s main focus was to empower us to stand in front of our peers and feel confident that we could deliver a great speech because of all the amazing speaking techniques like incorporating eye contact, vocal variety, hand gestures, sometimes even props to ensure you keep your audience interest, as well as deliver your intended message,” she said. “As each week passed, everyone’s confidence grew tremendously, and by the end, I think we all realized why Toastmasters was a part of our pharmacy program. We were able to gain the confidence we need as professionals.”