The Reflective Practitioner

Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

When Robert Soltis ’87 returned to Butler in 2016 to serve as Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, he came in with a goal to deliver on the College’s mission of developing graduates who serve society as dedicated, competent health professionals and community leaders.

At the 2016 White Coat Ceremony, Soltis said the Pharmacy and Physician Assistant programs are committed to integrating the liberal arts with professional preparation. He described this in terms of creating graduates who are “reflective practitioners”—competent PAs and pharmacists who “think deeply about their professional responsibilities and their patients.” 

“They are, in the end, dedicated and caring individuals who work for the good of others,” he said.

To illustrate the point, Soltis told the story of an Indianapolis woman named Eileen, a diabetic. Eileen’s husband lost his job and subsequently their health insurance. With limited money for insulin, test supplies, and her other medications, Eileen stopped taking most of her drugs and cut her insulin doses in half to stretch her budget. She also cut back on food, thinking she could control her disease by eating less.

Eileen became malnourished, anemic, and experienced diabetic ketoacidosis. At that point, she had to be rushed to the ER and spent several days in the hospital. “I truly did not think I was putting my life in danger,” she said at the time.

In this case, Soltis said, a reflective practitioner would have considered several questions, including: How did Eileen’s situation come to be? Was there no one to help her understand her disease? Why did she not realize the consequences of her actions? 

Most importantly, a reflective practitioner would reflect inward and ask: Could there be an Eileen among my patients? And, do I treat my patients in a way that they know they are deserving of, and are entitled to, the best care possible?

Eileen became malnourished, anemic, and experienced diabetic ketoacidosis. At that point, she had to be rushed to the ER and spent several days in the hospital. “I truly did not think I was putting my life in danger,” she said at the time.

In this case, Soltis said, a reflective practitioner would have considered several questions, including: How did Eileen’s situation come to be? Was there no one to help her understand her disease? Why did she not realize the consequences of her actions? 

Most importantly, a reflective practitioner would reflect inward and ask: Could there be an Eileen among my patients? And, do I treat my patients in a way that they know they are deserving of, and are entitled to, the best care possible?

To be a reflective practitioner requires knowing the right questions to ask and being committed to your patients’ well-being, Soltis said.

“I ask that from now on, every time our students put their white coat on, that they think about how they are preparing for a life of professional service,” he said. “And they should know that it involves not just caring for patients but caring about them as people.”