Top Free Online Learning Resources

MARCH 13, 2018
As I mentioned in a previous article on preparing for the Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP) exam, because there are so many incredible resources out there that are either free or free with access as a preceptor, I did not purchase any materials to prepare for it. However, the resources I mentioned in that article barely scratch the surface of what is out there. Many of the resources I have found, over the course of my practice and on my rotation, are shared with my students and are included in my answer to the question 'How do you keep up after graduation?'

Here are some of my favorite free resources:

1. American Academy of Dermatology Basic  

Maybe you had a different experience in pharmacy school, but for me dermatology was one of the topics I felt least prepared for after graduation. We only spent 2 or 3 weeks on this topic and we were asked to go ‘up and down the aisles’ of a pharmacy and research the products we see. I was incredibly happy to find that the AAD publishes courses on a range of topics they feel are relevant to fourth-year medical students and first-year residents for their rotations. They are presented by disease state, and topics include psoriasis, eczema, acne, ‘the red rash’, and skin cancers, but they have probably more than 50 topics. The best one for pharmacy practice is on drug-induced skin reactions.

2. Choosing Wisely:  

This website was developed as part of a national initiative to reduce the use of inappropriate procedures and treatments, and is intended to be a guide for providers and patients. National physician, nursing, pharmacist, and other organizations each put together a list of their top 5 potentially inappropriate treatments that providers and patients should question. For example, the American Geriatrics Society list includes 1) not treating asymptomatic UTIs and 2) not using atypical antipsychotics to treat behavior in patients with dementia. One great thing about this website is that each item on the list has been developed into a handout. When I worked at a tourist store on Maui, I often had Canadian patients asking me where the antibiotic eyedrops were (apparently they’re over the counter in Canada). I made copies from this website on a handout explaining to them about why they probably don’t need it. If you have common questions at your practice site, you might be able to find a great handout that will answer them.

3. American Psychiatric Association Guidelines:  

Some of these guidelines are older, but the material is organized very well and the quick reference guides provide all of their guidelines in table format. Because, unfortunately, we haven’t had many new classes of psychiatric medications in a long time, these guidelines will still include the medications you’ll see regularly. I used this website for much of my review of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder when I was preparing for the BCGP exam. Regardless of whether or not you are preparing for board certification, I definitely recommend it.


This website is great for reviewing your own technique on proper administration of dosage forms (eyedrops, nasal sprays, vaginal tablets, inhalers, etc.) and also for providing your patients either a handout or a website they can go to for reference later. It is an ASHP website and also includes other articles for patients on dietary supplements, vaccines, how to take acetaminophen safely, and other common patient concerns.

5. Institute for Healthcare Improvement Basic Certificate in Safety and Quality 

IHI has produced an excellent course that covers change management, patient safety, communicating after adverse events, leadership, and data analysis, among others. Best of all, you can earn CE credits for each course. There are printable summaries at the end of each course you can keep for your reference, as well as worksheets to use when leading quality improvement projects. The material incorporates lessons from high reliability theory as well as six sigma/lean and uses examples of lessons learned in other industries that have actually achieved high reliability (i.e. the airline industry). Again, most students are not exposed to any of this material but they are essential tools to actually improving healthcare and there is a big push for high reliability culture to be incorporated in health systems so it would be hard to work in any health system without hearing about it.

6. ACOG Frequently Asked Questions:  

This is the best website I have ever found for questions about women’s health. If you are a community pharmacist or planning on going into community pharmacy, you should skim through it and save this one to your favorites. Nearly every question I’ve ever been asked about is on this website, and like many of the sites above, the articles can be printed off as patient handouts. I have printed these handouts for patients before, again providing more information to them than I could have personally provided. It felt confident knowing I was providing them accurate information from a trusted source, and the site has also helped me in encouraging patients to see their OBGYN when I felt that they should.

7. Mother to Baby:  

Mother to Baby provides reliable information (it is a suggested resource by the CDC) on the use of medications in pregnancy, and while not comprehensive, it includes many OTC medications and (yes you guessed it!) printable handouts. The information provided will tell a patient much more than 'yes' or 'no' and instead educates them on everything we know about the use of that medication in pregnancy. It is written in language most patients can understand. While we might use Lexi-Comp or others for our reference, this is your go to site when a patient asks ‘I’m pregnant—can I take this?’ They also have a phone line a patient can call to ask the organization directly, so if they have questions later they know where to go for help.

Alex Evans, PharmD, CGP
Alex Evans, PharmD, CGP
Alex Evans, PharmD, CGP, works in community pharmacy in Jacksonville, Florida, and is preceptor at the University of Florida and Florida AM University. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with a BS in Biology and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He has worked in both the community and long-term care settings. He can be reached at
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