Preparing for the APPE season: how pharmacy schools can help students make the most of their APPE draft picks

By: Lauryn Jenkins, B.S., PharmD Candidate 2023;  Kunal Amin, PharmD; Mary E. Fredrickson, PharmD, BCPS 

Each year, professional sports teams eagerly await the Draft, a time when they enlist new players to their teams through various rounds of selection. Prior to the Draft, these organizations strategize to determine which players have the skill sets needed to help their team excel. In the pharmacy education arena, a new group of students will soon be eligible to make their own set of important picks during the APPE rotation preferencing process. In the same way drafted professional athletes can influence their team’s season, the rotations students select have the potential to significantly impact not only their final year of pharmacy school but also their post-graduate plans. Given the importance of these decisions, it raises the question:  

How can pharmacy schools best prepare student pharmacists for the APPE selection process? 

The process of choosing APPE rotations looks different depending on the pharmacy institution. In many cases, students have the option of selecting their own rotations or preferencing from a list of available sites. Often, certain constraints make it difficult for offices of experiential education (OEE) to match every student with their top choices while complying with the accreditation standards.1,2 Some of these challenges include availability of rotation sites and demand for specialty or elective rotations. To ensure students’ APPE picks set them up for a winning year, pharmacy schools may consider the following when advising students.  

Strategizing for a Winning APPE Year  

Getting the Right Mindset  

The APPE rotation selection process can be both exciting and overwhelming for students, but taking time to strategize and consider key factors can make the process less intimidating. Educators should encourage students to plan early to allow sufficient time to think through important considerations. Research indicates pharmacy students consistently rank location as a major consideration for their choice of APPEs.3 While important, solely focusing on location may involve preferencing rotations that don’t align with a student’s professional goals. Before making selections, students should consider postgraduate career plans, such as residency, fellowship, or a specific practice area, and determine what is needed from APPEs to best obtain these goals.  

Evaluating the Players  

This process of evaluating potential rotations could begin 6 months in advance of scheduling APPEs. To assist with rotation planning, OEE could consider providing students with questions to guide goal-setting and/or require students to schedule individual meetings with the OEE staff. Students could also connect with alumni to learn about their rotation experiences. Additionally, “APPE manuals” could be provided detailing rotation specifics, including site descriptions, preceptors,  typical student activities, schedules, and expectations. Using these resources, students should assess rotations in terms of preceptorship, learning opportunities, advancement and growth potential, and overall rotation experience.  Students should also consider financial implications as well: if they choose a distant rotation, how will increased housing or fuel costs factor into their budget? The timing of certain rotations may be another important consideration for some students. For example, students may want to have an internal medicine rotation prior to applying for residency or complete a specific rotation to obtain letters of recommendation before submitting applications. By helping students determine and prioritize the factors most relevant to their professional goals, faculty can set them up for success as they enter the “APPE Draft Pick”.  Table 1 lists specific questions educators can have students consider during this process.  

Table 1: Student Considerations  

Preceptor Did you have a good experience with this preceptor during an introductory pharmacy practice experience or in a classroom setting? 

Are they involved in research that interests you? 

Do they have leadership or organizational involvement that aligns with your goals? 

Do they have qualities that facilitate a positive learning experience? 4
Rotation Type Is this rotation outside of your local geographical area? 

Do you have specialty areas of practice needed to enhance your education? 

Are you interested in experiencing a virtual rotation vs. an on-site rotation? 

Do you prefer a block rotation at a health-system to incorporate the majority of your experiences? 

Future Directions & Final Remarks  

To better provide students with optimal experiential education, pharmacy institutions should consider conducting qualitative or quantitative research around student rotation experiences, which could be shared with future cohorts prior to APPE selection. This data could be collected via survey and evaluation responses. It may be helpful to collect information from preceptors regarding key things students should know about their rotation. Research could also center on alumni reflecting on the impact their APPE rotations had on their career path post-graduation. Information collected can be tabulated year-over-year and made available to future students through learning management systems. 

How will your college or school of pharmacy help student pharmacists select their APPE Draft Picks? 

References

  1. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Accreditation standards and key elements for the professional program in pharmacy leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy degree (“Standards 2016”). https://www.acpe-accredit.org/pdf/Standards2016FINAL.pdf. Published February 2, 2015. Accessed August 2022. 
  1. Hearn EB, Fleming LW, Pate AN, et al. Evaluation of a novel process for selecting advanced pharmacy practice experiences. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2021;13(10):1300-1305. doi:10.1016/j.cptl.2021.07.020 
  1. Shah V, Powers K, Veltri K, Zarfoss E. Factors That Influence Students’ Selection of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience. Am J Pharm Educ. 2020;84(2):7404. doi:10.5688/ajpe7404 
  1. Niederriter JE, Eyth D, Thoman J. Nursing Students’ Perceptions on Characteristics of an Effective Clinical Instructor. 2017; 3: 1-8. SAGE Open Nursing. doi:10.1177/2377960816685571 

Author Bio(s):  

Lauryn Jenkins is a fourth-year student pharmacist at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Her educational scholarship Interests include academia, personal and professional development, and mentorship. In her free time Lauryn enjoys baking, spending time with her dogs, and listening to true crime podcasts.  

Kunal Amin currently serves as an Assistant Director of Experiential Education, an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Northeast Ohio Medical University and VP of Operations at NEOvations Pharmacy Services. His educational scholarship interests include scholarship of pharmacy education, teaching and learning, professional development, and leadership and innovation in pharmacy practice. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, and traveling. 

Liz Fredrickson is an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy. Her educational scholarship interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning, and research related to compounding education. In her free time, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children.


Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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