Win-Win: Using student pharmacists to extend resources

April 10, 2016

Savvy health-system pharmacists seeking to do more with less are putting student pharmacists to work - and it's working.

Health-system pharmacists are always looking for ways to do more with less. One approach is to make better use of pharmacy students as they gain experience through work and mentorship in healthcare systems, reported presenters at the ASHP 2015 Midyear Clinical Meeting.  

Pharmacy students can be used to extend the capabilities of a hospital or healthcare system pharmacy, said Thomas S. Achey, PharmD, a health-system pharmacy administration resident at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Achey moderated the presentation, titled “Perspectives in Practice Advancement: Leveraging Students as Pharmacist Extenders.”

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More schools, more students

“We do have a growing number of students, due to pharmacy schools growing throughout the nation, so how can we capitalize on that?” he asked. Using pharmacy students to help a pharmacy keep up with its workload helps the institution as it enriches the students’ experiential education, he added.

Pharmacy students can be employed in areas such as operations, direct inpatient or outpatient care, and elsewhere, he said. Among other tasks, they can take medication histories, perform medication reconciliation, and run long-term projects over the course of several rotations with the healthcare facility. Using pharmacy students in this fashion is part of the Pharmacy Advancement Initiative, said Achey.

See also: New standards for pharmacy residency programs approved

Transitions of care

Meghan SwarthoutAnother area in which students can assist with patients and pharmacy workload is transitions of care, said Meghan D. Swarthout, PharmD, BCPS, MBA, division director, Ambulatory and Care Transitions, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. “We identified quickly that in order to fully and comprehensively meet the needs of our patients, we were going to need to look at ways to engage all the resources we had available to us, including pharmacists, residents, pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians.”

Students benefit through active participation in their experiential education, rather than just observing in the hospital, Swarthout said. This not only prevents dissatisfaction among both students and their preceptors; it helps increase students’ confidence. She noted that the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education now requires pharmacy students to take part in direct patient interactions with a diverse population of patients.

Johns Hopkins created a competency program to assess its student pharmacists during their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences. This enabled preceptors to ensure that students were ready to progress from observing an activity to performing that activity with a patient, Swarthout said.

Staff preceptors

Staff pharmacists serve as preceptors for student pharmacists at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said Sara Revolinski, PharmD, BCPS, coordinator for antimicrobial stewardship there. “All our pharmacists are going to have some level of interaction with students at our institution.”

Longitudinal students at Froedtert - those who spend most or all of their rotations there - need to go through only one orientation rather than one each for rotations performed at different locations, Revolinski said. This saves time for preceptors and pharmacy administration too, and puts students in direct contact with patients longer.

 

 

Build and expand

Creating an internship program for employed student pharmacists at an academic hospital does not mean having to reinvent the wheel, said Grayson K. Peek, PharmD, MS, BCPS, coordinator for administration and revenue management at Duke University Hospital, Durham, N.C. “You can start with your current infrastructure and build and expand from there.”

The internship program at Duke University Hospital began in 2014 but built on programs that already existed, Peek said. Students who return to the hospital for their rotations can create continuing projects that are sustainable and help them with their professional development.

“We want our students, when they finish the internship program, to be as competitive as possible when it comes time for pharmacy residency applications or for applying to jobs,” he said.

The speakers noted that creating programs that incorporate longitudinal students can benefit from the increasing familiarity between the students and the institution over the course of a series of rotations. Some programs draw students from several schools of pharmacy that often work on different schedules, which can complicate coordination of students into the institution’s schedule.

Valerie DeBenedette is a medical news writer in Putnam County, N.Y.