Introducing the ELPHs

You’d be forgiven for thinking Santa’s helpers were involved in a pilot program being run in Professional Practice workshops for first year students

“I always have to explain what that means because everyone says oh Tina’s like Santa and you guys are the elves,” laughs third year student Jess Kludass.

ELPHs or Educational and Learning Pharmacy Helpers are the initiative of Director of Pharmacy Education Professor Tina Brock.

“It’s definitely a cheeky name,” says Professor Brock. “It was around Christmas when we came up with it.”

This is the program’s first year. Third year students attend hands-on workshops and circulate alongside teaching associates to help their junior peers.

Jess Kludass and Kate Lowe

“We’re basically more of a link between the facilitator and the students to relay any problems that they’re having back and provide another level of support for them that they might not usually have,” says third-year student Kate Lowe.

As part of their duties, ELPHs take part in team meetings and provide a survey after each session so staff get a unique student perspective on teaching methods.

“It adds another dynamic to the workshop. We want learning spaces to be fun and delightful,” says Professor Brock.

Kate Lowe and Jess Kludass submitted a resume and cover letter as part of the application process to be chosen as ELPHs.

“I wanted to be involved because I wanted to be able to make the first years feel more comfortable in their transition from school to university. I remember what first year was like for me,” says Jess.

Kate says, “I think they’re a lot more comfortable in telling us what they don’t know. I think it's really important that they don’t have that guard up which they may have with the facilitators.”

And it’s a valuable experience for the ELPHs themselves.

“It’s great to be able to consolidate my learning and be able to relay that back to the students as well. That helps me to understand while teaching it,” says Jess.

“I think it’s good as a student to have an opportunity to go for positions that give you a taste of what it might be like to look for jobs or internships in a couple of years,” Kate adds.

Kate Lowe hadn’t considered a career in pharmacy until the end of high school.

“I really liked chemistry and when I was in Year 12, my teacher suggested that I apply for pharmacy,” says Kate. “Once I started the course and got to see what pharmacists do, I really loved it and was completely sold.”

Now Kate’s hoping to get a hospital pharmacy internship and says that this mentoring experience might even lead her down the path of teaching.

“I really like when we have working pharmacists come and talk us through a topic and we can see they have the expertise in that area. Maybe one day I’ll do that too.”

Jess Kludass took a less direct path to pharmacy.

“When I did my biomedical science studies I took a couple of pharmacology units to see how I would go and I really loved them so that’s where I got the idea to come into pharmacy.”

Jess finished her VCE in 2010 and started an engineering degree before transferring to a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University. After a two-year work and travel break following the completion of her degree, Jess started pharmacy.

“I really like the Parkville campus. Because it’s small you tend to know everyone in your course and are always with friends you have made from the start,” she says.

And now the ELPH program is helping to build on those friendships.

“It’s just nice to see some of the people you know in different year levels instead of just your little group,” says Jess.

With so much positive feedback it’s hoped the program will continue and grow.

“I hope we’d have something like that ourselves in our year level. It would be fantastic to have someone to look up to a little bit further along in the course,” says Jess.

Kate adds “I’ve loved my experience with it and I would definitely recommend it to other people.”

And it’s clear Professor Tina Brock is impressed with her ELPHs and what’s been achieved so far.

“They’re amazing. Every time I leave a meeting with these students I feel inspired.”