Rotations to make your head spin

Photo: Terri Levien, center, WSU faculty member/preceptor, talks with students in the Drug Information Center at WSU Spokane. (Photo by Luke Rice.)

“Take 94 senior pharmacy students times seven six-week internships apiece — that is about 658 rotations to be assigned, monitored, coordinated — and then there’s the geographical tweaking to make it all work.”

So begins Luke Rice, the exceptionally organized coordinator for the Advanced Practice Experience Program (APE) in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacotherapy, at WSU Spokane.

Required for all pharmacy students in their final year of study, the APE provides the students with experiential, hands-on learning. 

“It is a transition from the didactic classroom learning into the real world of clinical experience,” said Danial Baker, associate dean for clinical programs and professor of pharmacotherapy in the College of Pharmacy, WSU Spokane, who oversees the program.

APE — which grew out of a small pilot program initiated in 1970 by Keith Campbell, professor in the College of Pharmacy — is a statewide collaboration built on relationships with pharmacists throughout many regions.

“We are actively recruiting new faculty and clinics to partner with us all the time,” said Rice.

At each rotation site, students are mentored by preceptors in either shared faculty or adjunct faculty positions. Shared faculty are employed half time by the College of Pharmacy and half time by a local pharmacy or clinic. Adjunct faculty volunteer their time to precept students while working full-time in the community.

“We are relying on many community pharmacists to teach our students the applied knowledge they will need to succeed in practice,” Rice said. “This is when the light bulb goes on and students often learn the most.”

Most students complete their internships in Spokane or Yakima. Others are assigned to the Vancouver-Portland area, Tri-Cities or Pullman. Rotation selections are done by Rice using a lottery-based computer system that randomly assign students to internship sites.

“We do consider student preferences,” he said, “but this adds a fairness piece to it. In the end, most students get most of the internships they want.”

Popular rotation sites near Spokane include Eastern State Hospital, Elder Services-Spokane Mental Health, Holy Family and Sacred Heart hospitals, and the Drug Information Center at WSU Spokane.

During the year, students complete core rotations in acute care, ambulatory care, community care and institutional care settings. They also choose three elective rotations where it is hoped they will explore new areas of interest — helping them become well-rounded, as well as tapping into network and career leads.

“By the end of senior year, students should have a pretty good idea of which direction they want to go career-wise,” said Rice. “There are many practice areas and good opportunities for pharmacists right now.”

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