With an increasing number of students, faculty, and staff working from remote settings, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the rapid growth of online education and innovations in facilitating virtual classrooms. For Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidates, this shift has brought significant challenges in completing their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Education (APPE) rotations. As the final component of the PharmD curriculum, candidates typically work under the supervision of a pharmacist preceptor to apply their didactic knowledge and skills and gain professional experience in delivering pharmaceutical care.
With many PharmD candidates facing an unprecedented situation of some APPE rotations being canceled and graduation dates potentially delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that institutions and preceptors continue to create ample opportunities for these students to complete the final requirements of their pharmacy education.
In these difficult circumstances, managed care clinical pharmacists at Commonwealth Medicine – Clinical Pharmacy Services stepped up to serve as remote preceptors, providing a virtual, population health-based, managed care experience for three PharmD students.
The pharmacists at CPS collaborated, innovated, and leveraged technology and opportunity, finding new ways to maintain the integrity and expectations of traditional APPE rotations. Preceptors began by setting foundational expectations regarding privacy and confidentiality of both patient health information and business-related proprietary information. As preceptors, we committed to maintaining a virtual “open door” policy and holding both daily check-in and project-specific ad-hoc meetings via web-based platforms, phone calls, and emails.
Each student successfully presented various projects, including complex prior authorization case presentations, journal club facilitation, pharmaceutical pipeline agent monitoring updates, drug monograph preparation, and a final presentation to the clinical pharmacy staff and health plan clients.
Remote precepting proved to be a valuable experience for both preceptors and students. For preceptors, it was an opportunity for professional growth and a chance to practice flexibility and creativity in developing strategies to assist students in understanding the concepts of managed care pharmacy. For students, it was an excellent opportunity to practice flexibility, where they had to forgo the traditional and expected on-site rotation and, instead, commit to virtual learning to meet the experiential requirements for graduation. Feedback and constructive criticism were provided via e-mails and virtual interactions, which allowed students to apply comments and corrections before completing their projects, similar to what would have occurred in a traditional on-site experience.
While remote precepting and experiential learning offers freedom and flexibility, challenges in refining the virtual learning experience include determining how to successfully incorporate client philosophy within deliverables, how to effectively address the concepts of professionalism (e.g., social interactions, emotional intelligence, “team player” qualities), and improving oral presentation skills.
Expanding the availability of remote precepting may benefit the pharmacy industry by increasing exposure to the often-overlooked field of managed care pharmacy through the involvement of pharmacists working in population health organizations. Providing the option of remote rotations for similar practice settings would also eliminate geographical and financial barriers to accessing unique and valuable APPE experiences, particularly for students who may require short-term relocation in order to participate.
Overall, the experience of Clinical Pharmacy Services with remote precepting was a rewarding opportunity that allowed for the expansion of services for pharmacy students and relationships with partner colleges of pharmacy. As the availability of virtual learning and remote employment expands, remote precepting may be a potential approach in providing a multitude of opportunities for both pharmacy students and colleges of pharmacy.