Maximize Your Institutional Rotation Experience

JANUARY 09, 2018
I frequently get asked the question—'What do I need to bring to your rotation?' This question sounds so tangible, but it is mostly the intangible things that make the difference.

Professionalism Is Key
Email your preceptor a few weeks to a month prior to the start of your rotation. The email should include questions regarding scheduling, parking, meeting location, special tools, reading assignments or items that are required for your rotation. Your schedule should be flexible to the learning opportunities during that rotation. On your first day, show up early, and be professional in your dress, speech, demeanor and attitude. Remember this is your first chance to establish your professional presence. Pharmacy is a small world. Every day on rotation is a potential job interview.

Be Open-Minded
Your school will have some learning questions in the syllabus or task to review on this Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) experience. You should also have your own set of goals and questions. Establish goals and learning objectives you personally want to obtain during your institutional experience. These questions and goals will be conversation starters for a larger topic discussion with your preceptor. Also, remember as a student there is no task that is beneath you. The best pharmacists are able to complete any tasks in the pharmacy, and every task is a learning opportunity.

Most preceptors will not want students to show up with laptops and backpacks. Most sites will have resource access with their computers. Treat it like your first day on a new job, and always carry a few working pens and a small pocket size notebook. Phones may be misinterpreted, and is best in the off position, or used sparingly. There will be several topics and questions throughout the day that you will want to make notes of and review questions on your own time. During the day, the preceptor will ask questions that you cannot answer. This is normal. The preceptor will expect your response by the next day or sooner. Always document the question with any outstanding issues. It can be easy to forget things throughout the day. Your preparedness is being evaluated.

Questions Will Help You Learn
Ask questions! If you are interested, your preceptor will be more interested in teaching you. Your preceptor will not expect you to know everything, but inquisitiveness is a positive trait. This is a learning opportunity. When discussing patient cases, always offer what you know. This allows your preceptor to better assess your thought process and guide you to the right answer. Questions are a good starting point for a learning dialogue. You may be embarrassed, but we have all been there before.

Constructive Criticism Is a Mid-course Correction
The criticism may be positive or negative. You will learn from both. Adapt your behavior to the preceptor’s critique. Behavior changes often need to be practiced and modeled to perfect. This is the best time to start. If your preceptor does not offer ways to improve, ask again. We all can improve our techniques or styles.

These are a few brief suggestions that will make a measurable difference to the success of your first professional institutional encounter. The list can be much longer, the items more tangible, but a teachable, open-minded and eager student will glean the most from this experience.

This article was written with Chelsea Russell, who is a PharmD candidate at the University of South Florida in Tampa.


Jerry A. Barbee Jr., PharmD, BCPS, CPh
Jerry Barbee Jr., PharmD, BCPS, CPh, is a clinical hospital pharmacist in Pensacola, Florida. He is board-certified in Pharmacotherapy, a consultant pharmacist, ASHP immunizer and MAD-ID pharmacist. He has utilized these clinical pharmacist skills in both the community and institutional settings. Dr. Barbee is a residency preceptor and mentor to many students from multiple schools across the United States. He is honored to precept residents, introductory pharmacy practice students, and advanced pharmacy practice experience students. His primary area of interests are adult internal medicine and infectious disease, but his passion is for mentoring residents and students.
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