Pharmacy School Speeds Up Graduation Amid COVID-19

May 13, 2020

Purdue University College of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Indiana, helped its students graduate in record time this spring.

To get pharmacists into the workforce faster amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Purdue University College of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Indiana, helped its students graduate in record time this spring.

Although there is not a shortage of pharmacists in most areas of the country, having an increasing number of pharmacists available is important for dealing with the ongoing pandemic, Eric Barker, PhD, BSPharm, dean of Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, told Drug Topics®.

“Protecting that workforce is going to be very important, especially as we face potential waves of this pandemic. We don’t know what the demand could be if a major pandemic began to impact the pharmacy workforce,” Barker said. “Independent pharmacies are most vulnerable because they have a small staff and hospital pharmacies are particularly vulnerable because they are working in close quarters.”

To that end, Purdue worked with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, the state health commissioner, and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to graduate 142 pharmacy students on April 17-a full month ahead of schedule.

This is how the school was able to help graduate its students so early.

Purdue’s experiential/rotation program is designed to start in mid-May. However, its students had already amassed hours that exceeded the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) requirements.  “By April 1, all of our fourth year students had met the minimum requirements for ACPE guidelines, so ACPE said we could make modifications and meet the minimum 1440 hours,” Barker said

The College of Pharmacy and the Board of Trustees made the decision to suspend that final rotation period, which is already in excess of ACPE requirements, Barker explained.

The Indiana Pharmacists Association worked with Governor Holcomb and the state health commissioner to sign an order providing a temporary 90-day licensure for those who graduate from a pharmacy school in the state. If there is a public health crisis, the governor can extend the licensure order in 30-day increments, Barker said.

“Getting the students with their degrees conferred allowed us to transfer the certification to the various state boards and gives us the ability to schedule their exams,” Barker said.

However, exam scheduling has been sporadic as many testing centers were closed for 6 weeks. “Some students have not been able to get their exams scheduled until September, but 1 student took his test in Florida already,” Barker said.

The NABP is working on solutions to speed up pharmacy exam testing, he added.

Approximately 60% of Purdue’s graduating class will do residents or fellowships, and around 25% will take entry-level pharmacy positions. Around 10% don’t have immediate plans. “Some don’t want to take a job yet or are wanting a job in a particular region,” Barker said.