WHY is international experience beneficial to the pharmacy profession?
Pharmacy’s rapid progress during the last decades showed us that worldwide there are more and more challenges for pharmacists. Because of this international experience is essential to incorporating new concepts, improving healthcare services and education and helps us gain higher levels of proficiency by using approaches different that these in our own country.
In the era we live where the world is more open than ever, the more we learn about cultural differences, the better we understand patients and add value to the projects of the institution we work for. Witnessing the latest pharmacy developments and different working styles and comprehending the pharmacy systems in other countries can provide (future) professionals with new ideas about improvement, learning and professional development. But why is this so important?
It’s well known that pharmacy practice and education and not standardized worldwide which presents difficulties in understanding and integrating different models within the clinical and the industrial field. Studying and working abroad provides you with important knowledge and understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the pharmacy system in your own country.
It strengthens your leadership and communication skills – you become more independent, adaptive, self-reliant and open-minded, which are important skills to master, given that among other professionals, pharmacists have the most access to patients.
Moreover, you receive the chance to step out of your comfort zone and experience the kind of stress that gives you psychological hardiness. In addition there’s also the other side of the coin that people usually forget, namely hosting someone from another country. This also comes with facing different situations and challenges and expands your vision about the profession.
Let’s take an example: if we have a historical look to some of the most powerful cities in the world like London or Amsterdam, we notice that they ruled the world by being open, global and international. So in order to rule the world one must think global. This is why it is of highest importance to strive to provoke interest and instil motivation in gaining international experience in the early stages of a person’s career.
Encouraging students and young pharmacy professionals to open their eyes for such more global viewpoint could provide us with a stronger future work force and eventually lead to a new improved generation of pharmacists.
Last but not least, it’s not necessary to go abroad for a long period of time. Even a shorter stay in a foreign country (a few months) or joining an international non-governmental organization could be advantageous. What’s actually scary is leaving your work or university and travelling hundreds or thousands of kilometers to do something which might not turn out to be what you had expected. Accepting such a challenge says something about such people’s personality and that kind of determination and flexibility are being looked for by many employers in the pharmacy sector.
Victoria Becheva is a pharmacy student at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, she also works for the European Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (EPSA) as National Individual Mobility Project (IMP) coordinator
Individual Mobility Project