Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback

Career Manager By Quincy R. Ostrem, PharmD, MBA


When properly asked for and acted upon, feedback can be a powerful tool in every pharmacist’s arsenal. It also provides a great opportunity for the feedback giver to grow as a practitioner. Feedback is the first step to improving your practice, learning new skills, and working toward your goals. With a little practice and dedication, anyone can quickly become a pro at asking for and receiving effective feedback.

Ask for feedback effectively

The first step to a meaningful feedback session is preparation. Blindly asking for feedback isn’t helpful to the person asking for feedback, nor the person giving feedback. Before asking, think about what you’re asking for. What are you looking to achieve with this project? What feedback could help you achieve your goals? Understanding your own motivations and anticipated areas for improvement will help you determine what feedback to ask for.

Conscientiously determine who you will ask for feedback. The best candidate will be knowledgeable in the topic area for which you are requesting feedback. For example, if you are giving a complicated presentation on a rare heart disorder, you might ask a cardiology specialist to provide feedback on your material before the presentation. If, after the presentation, you are looking to determine if your explanation of the complicated topic was understandable, you might prefer to ask a less seasoned practitioner for feedback. Remember, giving feedback is also a great opportunity for any pharmacist to use critical thinking skills in a non–patient care environment. Giving feedback requires analytical thinking and can lead to stronger self-reflection on one’s own practice.

Be specific when you are asking for feedback. Make it easy for the person who is giving you feedback by asking for what you need. Don’t just ask, “How did I do?” Ask, “What was one way I could have improved my explanation of the mechanism of action of metformin?” Feel free to be very specific if you are looking for feedback on a particular aspect of a project.

Be prepared to receive feedback

Prepare to receive feedback before asking for it. Dissociate yourself emotionally from your work and any criticisms that you may hear. Remember that your ability to be a strong pharmacist is not defined by the feedback you receive. Get excited about what you might learn from the feedback session. Think about how your practice may evolve with the observations others provide. But, don’t ask for feedback until you are ready to receive it. Know your own limits. Receiving feedback can be challenging. Don’t ask for feedback when you are stressed or overwhelmed. The best time to ask is when you are excited about improving your work.

When you receive feedback, don’t deny any observations or try to defend your work. This goes for both positive and negative feedback. Remember, you are asking for feedback to get a fresh perspective. It makes sense that not every observation will be agreeable or meaningful to you right away. Ask questions and clarify when you are confused. Ask for examples and specific recommendations for improvement. Repeat the feedback to the observer to ensure you really understand his or her perspective.

Finally, take time to reflect on the feedback given to you. Once the feedback session has ended, it is up to you to determine what feedback is relevant. Think about the ease of implementing each piece of feedback versus its importance to your goals and your practice. You are even free to disregard feedback after you’ve contemplated it. 

Asking for and receiving feedback can be a valuable resource to any pharmacist who is eager to grow his or her practice.