An Innovative Seminar Course in Business Etiquette for Pharmacy Graduate Students

Article excerpt


Civility (accepted social behaviors) is a foundational component of the complex phenomenon of professionalism. (1) In global business and healthcare environments and with the diversity in American society, professional and graduate pharmacy students may interact routinely with individuals from other cultures. In professional relationships, undesired outcomes may arise from etiquette gaffes, such as ineffective or potentially offensive interpersonal communications between people of different age groups, professional positions, races, ethnicities, nationalities, and belief systems. To avoid these communication problems, students need to be knowledgeable about and aware of business etiquette. (2) Knowledge and application of appropriate business etiquette will help students and graduates feel more confident in workplace environments, which will likely translate into more successful business and/or healthcare outcomes.

In pharmacy education, instruction on aspects of professionalism and professional socialization is requisite. (1,3) Student development of professionalism is emphasized in Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) standards and guidelines, which also include curricular strategies for achieving this goal. Performance competencies include appropriate professional behavior and self-awareness. (4) The Center for the Advancement of Pharmaceutical Education (CAPE) educational outcomes for pharmacy students state the need for appropriate professional demeanor as well as effective communications in consideration of contextual and cultural factors. (5) Instruction on social, interpersonal skills, and etiquette is considered essential in academic disciplines other than doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curricula, (3,6) including graduate pharmaceutical sciences (ie, master of science degree or doctor of philosophy degree), (7) medicine, (8) law, (9) business, (10-12) and others. Descriptions of effective pedagogical strategies to teach business etiquette to students are lacking in the literature. Colleges and schools of pharmacy and/or their universities may provide students with, for example, a mini-workshop (eg, 2 hours or less) on aspects of business etiquette within a professional or career development series. (13) Etiquette 101-type dinners or luncheons are popular among college students. (14) However, little guidance is available for developing an intellectual, multidimensional, academic course on business etiquette.

This article describes the conceptualization, implementation, and assessment of an innovative graduate seminar course on business etiquette for students in the social and administrative pharmaceutical sciences. This was a different type of seminar, created and developed in response to a recognized need among graduate students for instruction on knowledge and skills in business etiquette. The impetus for the course was to address this deficit, increase knowledge, skills, and confidence; and inspire continued learning. The idea emanated from the observation that graduate students in the social and administrative pharmacy sciences, both domestic and international, are inadequately knowledgeable about and unfamiliar with customary business etiquette practices. For example, some students feel awkward taking the initiative to approach someone new, introduce themselves, and strike up a conversation, and, as appropriate, engage in a handshake. Even students without such reticence may not know the appropriate situational considerations in introductions and guidelines for social interaction. Another example reported by pharmacy school faculty is that the tone of some student e-mails and other written communication received from students is unprofessional, emphasizing the need for improved knowledge of etiquette in such business communications. (6) The new era of distance learning and e-professionalism (ie, online reflection of professional attitudes and behaviors as expressed through use of digital media, including e-mail communication, social media, and other Web-based information shaping the individual's online persona) (6,15,16) support the need to revisit instruction in the principles of business etiquette. …


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