Structuring an Early Clinical Experience for Pharmacy Students: Lessons Learned from the Hospital Perspective
Alberta Health Services—Edmonton Area is a division of a provincial health authority located in Edmonton, Alberta, serving a population of about 1 million people. It consists of 13 facilities with over 2500 beds, in addition to outpatient clinics and public health offices. Regional Pharmacy Services (RPS), staffed by nearly 180 pharmacists and more than 190 technicians, provides clinical and distribution services. RPS provides a significant proportion of institutional rotation sites for students of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (FPPS) at the University of Alberta. FPPS recently revised the undergraduate curriculum to a modular form and integrated Alberta College of Pharmacists internship hours with FPPS-required experiential training. Until this curricular revision, the first structured hospital experience for undergraduate students did not occur until the final professional year of the program, but a 2-week hospital rotation for second-year pharmacy students has now been added to the curriculum. The first of these rotations was offered in the spring of 2006. The overall goal of this rotation is “to provide the student with an opportunity to participate in the role of the pharmacist in a collaborative and multidisciplinary institutional setting”.1 The objectives and activities of the rotation include understanding patients’ drug-related needs; understanding pharmacists’ legal, ethical, and professional responsibilities; conveying information and recommendations related to drugs and drug use; and learning about drug distribution.1 The development of this rotation posed a number of challenges for RPS, particularly with respect to providing opportunities for students to participate in the pharmacist’s role. Given the modular nature of the curriculum, the students’ therapeutic knowledge base upon completion of their second year is limited to certain areas (Table 1). In addition, the limited duration of the rotation (10 working days) and the requirement to cover some aspects of drug distribution (including medication safety) presented challenges for preceptors accustomed to the 6-week academic rotations of the final year. Finally, because 2006 was the first year for this new academic rotation, the RPS staff members did not have a full understanding of FPPS’s expectations for experiential learning and contribution to patient care during their initial planning. Our goal was to develop and evaluate a new hospital rotation designed to introduce the clinical role of the hospital pharmacist and provide direct patient care experience to secondyear pharmacy students. This report describes our experiences with this rotation and outlines the lessons that we learned.
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