Category Archives: education

How to use your time effectively

Time heals all wounds. Time will tell. Timing is everything. We have crafted all of these lofty adages and cliches, and yet..it is such an elusive and vast concept, it is difficult to wrap our minds around it.

“If only we had more time, then…,” we tell ourselves. Or should I say, we delude ourselves into thinking. The fact is, you can have all the time in the world, and still be the same procrastinator who is not progressing in life. In fact, the emptier your calendar is looking, the less likely you are to get up and do something. When we don’t have the motivation of time constraints, it is very difficult to get anything done. You keep putting it off, thinking you can afford to be lazy and not suffer consequences, and still get it done. You occupy yourself instead, with social media and meaningless browsing on the internet, or on the couch in front of the other big screen that sucks you in like a black hole. Have you ever sat down and calculated how much time in a day you spent with your computer and TV? That time just became your opportunity cost to do something, dare I say it, actually worth your while – something productive, meaningful, helpful in some way.

On the other hand, I find that people are most productive under pressure. It’s only when you have a deadline looming over them that your wheels start turning extra fast. It’s only when you know you don’t have that extra day, or hour to work on something, because you have plans that you can’t cancel. When your “time” is scheduled rigidly, suddenly, you have no time to waste. When there are all these activities planned ahead of time, somehow you find a way to fit everything in. There is a surge of energy, your endorphins start pumping, and adrenaline helps you accomplish everything you set out to do.

Most people get comfortable with a routine daily sequence of events, and get too overwhelmed to try to change even one tiny habit. We are comfortable with our phones, our electricity, our easy entertainment, our fast food..and yet are left unsatisfied. We say, “well, it’s too late to change anything now; it’s been too long; it will take too much time.” But we have to realize, Rome wasn’t built in a day! The fast-paced world surrounding us deludes us! We are still human, we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to love and be loved, and we need to work! We need to work and feel worthy, feel like we are contributing to a greater good. We need to look inside ourselves and feel satisfied with the day we lived. And we always need to strive to the next goal, to keep moving, to have meaning, to have purpose.

That sounds complicated – how does one do that? Well, the hardest part, as usual, is to start.

  1. Step one: figure out what is important to you, what you would like to see change in this world and in yourself.
  2. Step two: list the long term goals of what you want to accomplish; be realistic yet include some out-there ones.
  3. Step three: break these up into shorter-term goals, that you feel can be managed during a short span of time.
  4. Step four: dedicate a set period of time each day to tackle some of these goals. Even if they don’t get done in one day, this time will add up and eventually allow you to realize your goal!

Thinking about your dreams is a good start, but you must take action! Even 10 minutes each day spent working toward a goal will help! In fact, you may find yourself wanting to spend more and more time on it. You may get into “the zone” and enjoy the project so much that you won’t even realize the passing of time! And eventually, you will get more and more productive, and it will take you less time to accomplish what you set out! I encourage you to set deadlines for yourself, and schedule your time with fewer periods of “free time.” Schedule your time for pleasurable leisure activities instead of lounging on the couch staring into a black box. There is a world of exciting things out there – and no time to waste!

Back to Basics

Growing up, I was always reading. I was fascinated by the ability of writers to master a language and create a whole new world within the pages of a book. Now, everything is digital and almost everyone is a writer – just look at the amount of blogs out there!

Using all the resources available to us now, we have expanded the ability to communicate beyond what is physically feasible – people can reach each other across the globe with the touch of a button! With that said, the human element has somehow gotten lost in translation.

I’d like to raise questions and invite people to think about what we are gaining and what we are giving up. The culture today is all about instant gratification, without taking the time to getting to the root of something and finding the best solution. The media and industry has a stronghold on all aspects of our lives. We are being brainwashed without realizing it, every time we watch a show, ride the subway, read a nutrition label, or put on a brand of clothing. Healthcare is running on autopilot: diagnose, prescribe medication, dispense, bill insurance. Our bodies are abused rather than being nurtured.

The world is on the precipice of something – values are shaking up and people are awakening as if from a deep slumber. We are the the masters of our own destiny. If we are careful, we can find a balance with nature and live in harmony, within and without.

My intention for this blog is to organize my ideals for what it means to be human, and inspire people to find their own ideals. Everyone is different, but we must each embrace our individuality in order to stay true to ourselves. Looking within is the key to living a happier, healthier life. I will also post tips on health & wellness, spirituality, nutrition, and living green.

Namaste, to those who are reading and following.

It’s OK to say “No”

We’ve all seen the movie “The Yes Man.” Or at least have heard about it or seen commercials. The point is, good things happen when you open yourself up to receiving all things the universe has to offer, and saying “yes” to absolutely every opportunity, even if it seems wacky. In fact, the wacky ones may pay off in the end, according to the movie.

While the “yes” concept is alluring and all’s well that ends well….well, it may be wise to set limits in real life. Knowing when to say “no” is an equally important aspect of the self-awareness process. “No” is a rejection of something that has no room in your life, so that you can make space for the things that truly resonate with you as an individual.

Oftentimes, we say “yes” to things in the hopes of pleasing those that are making offers to us. But this kind of thinking is sure to end up not pleasing anyone. If our heart is truly not into it, then we are not doing either party any favors. Respect one another and be honest and truthful about your values. This will allow us a fair chance at recognizing whether we share the same interests and place us on a path to either deepening our connection, or heading our separate ways. In any case, it will be better than attempting to fake like-mindedness and forge something that will not benefit either person.

There is a saying that has been going around the web recently, “Today is the day to let go of the things that no longer serve me.” We need to be able to recognize when we have gotten to a place where we are comfortable and happy, and not force a good thing to turn bad.

Graveyard Shift: The Road to IPPEs

Walking along the graveyard, cold wind in my face, I just couldn’t fathom what I was getting myself into and what I’m doing there. Then I remembered: it was just part of the hardships I had to go through to become a pharmacist. Thousands of students had gone through it before me, and I was no exception – if I wanted to get somewhere the road to it was unpleasant. But does it really have to be that way?

This is the first year that St. John’s is implementing the “IPPE” (Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience) in its program of study for third year pharmacy students. We are the “test subjects,” if you will, for these introductory rotations that involve a number of challenges to the already demanding curriculum. The goal of these IPPEs is to introduce students to the common workplace of the pharmacist, which presumably the student had no prior contact with before choosing it as their desired career path. In any case, NYS requires that third years complete 100 hours of observation at these preliminary rounds in community and hospital pharmacies, before returning to similar sites as fifth year interns. While the idea behind getting to know your future workplace is a beneficial one, the means of its implementation may not be the most convenient or even logical ones. Many St. John’s students feel that the administration of IPPEs is unfounded and ineffective, from the level of the program’s organization in our University’s headquarters, all the way up to the idea behind these introductory rounds.

In the eyes of students, there are too many losses and not enough gains from the way these IPPEs have been set up. First of all, most students who are already in the program (and all 3rd years are already part of the professional program) have an idea of what their future jobs may entail. A lot of students work in pharmacies already, so the observational goal of IPPEs will be almost like a step backwards for them. Finally, students are losing out financially on these rounds because: they are not getting paid since they are only observing; they are missing a day of productivity if they are employed by a pharmacy; and they are not being reimbursed for traveling expenses (not to mention opportunity costs of spending time studying or working). In the end, the eight hours of every week spent at the site (and time spent commuting) will only add up to a pass/fail grade for a one credit course.

Aside from expected errors and mix-ups under normal administrative functions, a lot of misunderstandings students have faced with their IPPEs this semester are due to the newness of the program itself. Nonetheless, St. John’s staff has been working hard to fulfill its requirements as an accredited institution to educate their students by the means described by their superiors.  Everything was in the works beginning from the fall 2009 semester, during which students had to submit multiple forms including updated medical records, HIPPA completion, OSHA training and background checks – for which there was a considerable fee.  Having met the deadlines, students were assigned to locations based on the order in which they submitted their forms, preference (ranked 1-9, the boroughs  and LI counties), address, and whether or not they had a means to travel, i.e. owned a car. Not only was this system imperfect in accommodating everyone, the administration repeatedly warned students that any requests to change the assigned site of rotation will not be honored. Granted, in doing so, they were protecting themselves from a lot of bombardment and complaints from students, but shouldn’t it be part of their job to look out for all their students and value their concerns? Perhaps 250 students are too many students to indulge, but I believe that each student deserves the best education St. John’s has to offer, and the best effort on the administration’s part to make that happen.

I myself, tried to switch my assigned rotation site but was told that nothing could be done for me. I handed every form in on time, I maintained a stellar GPA, I wrote on my form that I had no means to travel to my site; yet I still depended on the luck of the draw, and got assigned to a pharmacy surrounded by three cemeteries, to which I would need to commute with 3 train transfers and a bus transfer, taking two hours.  My philosophy is this: the less time we spend traveling to the site, the more time we have to dedicate ourselves to the experience, and study for our other classes. I was told that if I switch my site to a more preferable one to me, it would be unjust and the same exception would have to be made to all students. Furthermore, I had done something totally unacceptable – I got directly involved in the fate of my IPPE rotations, and got permission from a preceptor in my area to complete my IPPE hours in that location. Apparently, this went against the entire system because in a way, I was going behind the administration’s back and put the preceptor in an uncomfortable situation, whereas he could not refuse the opportunity to help out a fellow St. John’s student. I was being lectured for trying to take my educational experience into my own [capable] hands. This was a complete 180 degree turn from my usual associations with administration; I’ve always been a straight A student, and the only other times I was in the dean’s office was to talk of my accomplishments and good things that are sure to come in the future. So I wondered, what does this advice say for the learning experience that St. John’s has an obligation to give me? Shouldn’t educators encourage students to seek the best for themselves, to think independently and to find solutions?

The whole mess of misunderstandings, complaints, and pleas for “exceptions” could be placated by assigning students to sites in a timely fashion. The rotation schedule and location was revealed to students less than a week before they had to go out on them! Perhaps this was due, again, to the fact that this is a new program, or perhaps to reduce the amount of complains or pleas to switch out; in either case, students should not be penalized for the inadequateness of this program’s administration. Since this program is brand new, perhaps some exceptions should be tolerated during the time of its introduction.

Even more helpful would be to avoid this tangle with students altogether. Instead of having St. John’s administrators as intermediaries in this entire process, it would be easier for all parties involved to have the students search for their own IPPE sites. This would not only save the administrators the hassle and pressure of trying to please the students and do their job for everyone justly, it would teach students the responsibility of being in the “real world” and making their own connections and choices. I even have a proposition for how this can work. A student with a site in mind can get the agreement of a potential preceptor, then report to the school to come evaluate the site and prepare the necessary paperwork and contracts if they deem it suitable. Yes, this would take potentially 250 visits if each student has their own individual site, but maybe it is worth the trips if all the aforementioned stress can be forgone. Or perhaps the documents proving the existence of the site and a phone call to the preceptor would be sufficient to deem the site suitable. As long as the student gains the required learning experience, then the goal of these IPPEs would be fulfilled.  So far the evaluation process to this involves filling out a learning packet, putting in the required amount of hours at the site, and getting assessed by the preceptor based on our professionalism and aptitude. As long as these are all met, it shouldn’t matter who chose the preceptor site. For those students that cannot find their preceptor in the allotted time, the school should offer some of their affiliated sites.

One step further than that would be to have all the students that are already employed as pharmacy technicians to verify this by documentation, and being able to circumvent to the process altogether. If the issue here is distrust and cheating, all St. John’s has to do is check the reliability of the documents by contacting the preceptors themselves. I for one, am all for learning new things and getting hands-on experience (or in this case, observation only) with something concretely related to my chosen career. I just think there is an easier way to go about it, and just because it hasn’t been done before, it should not be ruled out as impossible. My other suggestion was to switch my day of rotation to a weekend day, and I was immediately reproached for this as well, since it was not part of the policy.

IPPEs do not have to bring about a collective groan from students and administrators alike. We don’t have to shake our heads and slump our shoulders in defeat at the start of each rotation. Instead, we can make this a positive experience to look forward to by having a more active role in its management. The worst feeling is that of helplessness: trapped with no alternatives. Students should be encouraged to go out and make their own choices regarding their education. St. John’s has already given us the background, but we should slowly take the reins into our own hands. This will not only simulate practice in the real world, but will allow students to feel in control of their destiny and thus be willing and proactive in their IPPEs. Furthermore, it would alleviate some administrative responsibilities and stresses, since they would not be liable for the students’ decisions.

We live in a free country where anything is possible, so I think students should take more responsibility for themselves. Treating all students with equal respect is one thing, but running a policy of “no exceptions whatsoever” sounds dangerously close to socialism. If everyone was made to conform, no great people would ever stand out. We should not be afraid to think creatively. In fact we should be encouraged to look for solutions outside the box, and not only make life easier on everyone, but create better experiences in doing so.