This pilot program was deemed successful, and the clinical summer student program has been expanded to include additional positions at Capital Health. In addition, this model and the lessons learned from the pilot have been incorporated into both second- and fourth-year experiential rotations in the undergraduate program at the University of Alberta. Pharmacists’ appreciation of the student’s role on the pharmacy clinical team and integration of the student into the team are important components of the success of the program. We feel that we have achieved these goals and have taken steps toward a cultural change regarding the role of students in hospital pharmacy practice and how pharmacists view students. At the conclusion of this pilot program, we felt it was important to consider what had been learned in an effort to improve future programs.
“I Have the Coolest Summer Job”
The students clearly benefited from the program. One of the students reported that he had “the coolest summer job”. The students also indicated that the summer experience left them better prepared for their academic rotations. The positive experience of these students has increased interest in summer employment with Capital Health, and in 2007, there were 130 applications for 27 summer student positions.
Anecdotal reports from the students indicated that the pilot program increased their interest in pharmacy residencies and careers in institutional practice. Of the 5 students who participated in the pilot program, 1 went on to complete a residency and 2 are currently employed in hospital practice. Capital Health has received an increasing number of applications from new graduates, despite significant competition from community practice.
From the students’ perspective, the value of working in direct patient care, alongside pharmacists engaged in professional activities, was of paramount importance. The students’ confidence appeared to increase over the duration of the work experience through repeated exposure to patients and patient care activities and through feedback from the pharmacist. We feel that it is important that this student feedback be shared with the pharmacists to help them understand the importance to the student of being integrated into the team. One of the most rewarding aspects of the pilot for the students was making a meaningful contribution to patient care and understanding the professional role of a hospital pharmacist.
Four months after completion of the pilot program, one student had this to say about her experiences: Reflecting back on my summer experience, it was probably the most rewarding of my undergraduate career. The preceptors were wonderful and supportive and always willing to share their wealth of knowledge. The formal training at the beginning of the summer set me on the “fast track” and enabled me to dive into the role of the clinical intern. It helped to re- emphasize key points from school and introduced me to aspects of the hospital that school does not allow you to experience.
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“We All Have to Be on the Same Page”
It was disappointing that one student originally selected for the pilot program was reassigned to work in a technical role. However, this reinforced the importance of obtaining strong support for the program from the pharmacists, other staff, and management. One of the changes made after the pilot program was to increase the preceptors’ involvement with the training process and to clarify the preceptors’ role. Given concerns about the time spent with the students early in their training, it is important that pharmacists be supported in the preceptor role. For example, scheduling changes may be needed to accommodate the preceptor activities. The teams that reported the most rewarding experiences had preceptors who provided clear direction both to the other pharmacists and to the student. The pharmacists also felt that they needed more details about the information that the students received during the structured training sessions. Modifications to address this concern have included providing preceptors with copies of the written information that the students receive and having the preceptors participate in the training program. Improved communication among the students, the preceptors, and the rest of the pharmacy team is critical, and frequent meetings are of particular importance early in the program.
Allow Time for Learning
A system of offering a training program for a limited number of clinical tasks, scheduling time to master these tasks in the patient care setting, and then providing a second training session for additional clinical tasks has been implemented. The instructional method of observing demonstration of the skill by the preceptor, rehearsing the skill, and applying the new skill forms the foundation for learning from experience. Combining structured learning with experiential learning activities for a limited number of tasks has been used to implement structured patient interventions to be performed by students. This educational model is applicable to other training scenarios, including orientation of pharmacists, technicians, and students on academic rotations.
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A pilot program involving structured training and participation in patient care and professional activities provided pharmacy students and preceptors with a rewarding work experience that contributed to their respective professional development. This program cultivated a clinical role for students and appreciation of that role on the clinical pharmacy team.