Pharmacy Student Rotations 101
Are you a pharmacy student not sure where to start when it comes to rotations? This article should answer some of your most pressing questions.
Selecting rotations can be a bit like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. There are multiple pieces and it takes time and creativity to fit them all together into one cohesive picture. You are likely asking yourself: Where will I fit? How do I get all the rotations I want? How can I improve my chances for a residency? What if I don’t know enough? How can I be successful on rotation?
It’s not uncommon for student pharmacists to feel overwhelmed by this process. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions that students have when it comes to pharmacy practice experiences.
Q. What do I need to know/prepare for before I go on rotation?
A. Review the material. Preceptors expect you to have an understanding of disease states, mechanisms, and pharmacology of drugs, basic patient counseling skills, and state and federal laws. To prepare, start by reviewing your class notes specific to the rotation, such as cardiology, infectious disease, nephrology, OTC medications, etc. For example, if your rotation will be at a diabetes clinic, look over medications and dosages commonly used for both types of diabetes and how you would counsel a patient who is using a blood glucose monitor for the first time.
Keep copies of your immunization history, drug screen, background check, and certificate of completion of specific training requirements like HIPAA, CPR and Blood Borne Pathogens. By law, each rotation will have its own specific requirements to enter and practice at their facility. It is your responsibility to be in compliance with all of their standards. If you are not, you may be at risk of being dismissed from the rotation.
Depending on the policy of your school, think about contacting preceptors ahead of time to ask about site specific requirements and other important tips, like when and where you need to be, what the dress code is, and who your primary contact will be in case of an emergency. You will also want to ask what is expected of you while you are on rotation. Remember, your rotations are your first priority. It is your responsibility to arrange for coverage at work, childcare, and other personal matters before the start of the rotation.
Q. Where will I fit?
A. Anywhere. Having completed the didactic curriculum, you are prepared to enter the world of patient care. Some students feel more comfortable in certain areas because they performed well on that topic in the classroom. Just because cardiology was not your best block doesn’t mean you are not cut out for a cardiology rotation. Use a cardiology rotation as an opportunity to improve in this area. Conversely, if you excelled in the oncology block and you enjoy the material, selecting an oncology rotation can help you fine tune your skills. The bottom line is you will fit anywhere as long as you are open to the experience.
Q. How do I get all the rotations I want?
A. You may not get everything you want. Be flexible. Coordinating your schedule based on your preferences, when you want to take vacation and when the preceptors are available, is no easy task. You may be assigned rotations you asked for, but based on the factors such as those mentioned above, you may not. In addition, preceptors coordinate other scheduling issues such as Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences students, residents, and other health education students. Remember, areas that you haven’t previously considered may lead to opportunities for employment in the future. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Q. How can I arrange my schedule to improve my chances for a residency?
A. Do your homework. If you already know you want to do a residency, start investigating residency sites now. Meet with faculty members or current pharmacy residents in your community and ask for their advice about what rotations would better prepare you for a residency. Would research experience help? Should all of your rotations be focused in specialty areas? How can you arrange your schedule so that you will be competitive? Once you have the answers, meet with your experiential coordinator and explain your post-graduation intentions. Together you may be able to coordinate a schedule that best fits your needs.
Q. What if I don’t know enough? I don’t feel confident enough to go on rotation.
A. Set goals for yourself. Professional practice experiences should provide settings where you develop the skills necessary to function competently in a particular environment. In general, the expectations are that you will be able to function as a general clinical pharmacist in that particular setting. You are not expected to be on the same level of expertise as your preceptor.
If you set goals at the beginning of each rotation, you will slowly build confidence as you complete those goals. For example, if you are assigned a pediatric pulmonary rotation, one goal you set could be to accurately demonstrate the use of a metered-dose inhaler to five pediatric patients. When you review your goals with your preceptor, he or she can ensure that you are getting the experience you need to help you become confident and successful during that rotation. By the end of the rotation, preceptors will expect you to fulfill their expectations without frequent prompting.
Q. How can I be successful on rotation?
A. Take responsibility. The ultimate goal of the fourth-year professional practice experiences is to empower students to take responsibility for a patient’s drug therapy outcomes in any setting.
As previously mentioned, you may not get every rotation you want. If you are in this situation, stay positive. You can learn important skills from every rotation you do, even if you think it doesn’t interest you. You are ultimately responsible for your learning during the professional practice experiences. In many situations where student pharmacists feel like they have gained little knowledge, it is often due to a lack of effort on the student’s part or because their attitude is poor right from the start. Maintain professionalism throughout every experience. That means show up on time, dress appropriately for the site, treat preceptors and patients as you would want to be treated, and accept responsibility. You’re ready.
In summary, you are prepared for your final year. Setting goals for yourself will not only give you motivation throughout the experience, it will also show your preceptors that you are ready to challenge yourself. If you are flexible, maintain professionalism, and take each rotation as an opportunity to fine tune your skills, you will be successful. Treat this final year and each rotation as a job interview. You may just be working alongside your preceptors someday.
One final piece of advice: Have fun!