Preparing for APPEs: Practical Tips for Students and Preceptors

DECEMBER 04, 2016
Every pharmacy student looks forward to rotations. This experiential year provides budding pharmacists with exciting, hands-on opportunities to build upon their didactic experiences and strengthen their clinical skills. Much of the rotation experience can depend on the preceptor. Whether you’re a new preceptor seeking methods to effectively precept, or a third-year pharmacy student preparing to start rotations, we offer these practical tips for students and preceptors alike to optimize the rotation experience.
1. Foster motivational learning.
Motivational learning is defined by 2 categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. An intrinsic student is self-motivated to learn for personal benefit. An extrinsic student is motivated by external factors such as recognition, rewards, and compliments. As a student, your motivation to do well might be receiving the best possible grade during your rotation, or being complimented on your work by your preceptor. As a preceptor, these external motivators can help to build student confidence and provide informal feedback to the student. From a student perspective,  it’s important to be able to respond to extrinsic learning, but your own self-motivation to maximize your rotation experience and expand your horizons should drive you to make the most of your rotation.
2. Respect each other’s time.
As a student pharmacist, it’s important to remember that your preceptor, in addition to precepting you, may have other responsibilities including patient care, projects, committee work, resident teaching, and so forth. Understand that your interactions with him or her may be limited, so make sure you’re prepared to present your patients or ask your questions during the allocated discussion times. Also remember to be flexible—if your preceptor is running behind, use that time to research information on a new medication or brush up on a disease state. By the same token, preceptors should also be respectful of the student’s time. Make a rotation calendar for the student that also includes where you’ll be each day. Routinely running behind? Ensure you have an agreed-upon way of quickly contacting each other in case a meeting or topic discussion needs to be rescheduled.
3. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing your strength and weaknesses should be a priority for every pharmacy student. Reflect on areas in which you struggle (infectious disease, patient counseling, calculations), and communicate these areas with your preceptor. As a preceptor, also identify where the student excels, or ask where his or her pharmacy interests lie. This way, you can tailor the rotation to focus on improving the student’s weaker areas and help to further explore their interests. Identifying any areas of improvement will help the student in the long run, specifically when studying for the NAPLEX. Students should always be open to constructive criticism because it allows them to grow personally and professionally.
4. Offer a variety of learning opportunities.
Preceptors can provide a number of different experiences for students to learn and grow during the rotation. More formal learning can come from weekly topic discussions, patient case presentations, patient counseling, journal clubs, and revising or developing protocols. Other learning occurs more informally through participating in patient rounds, observing preceptors, and attending grand rounds or meetings. These opportunities can be more effective when the learner feels integrated and part of the team. Allowing students to assist in projects, help with daily pharmacy processes, or answer drug information can be great motivators for learning and can help ease the workload of the preceptor—all while fostering the transition from student to pharmacist.
5. Establish student–preceptor trust.
One of the most important components to a successful rotation is trust. As a student, proving to your preceptor that you can be trusted is vital to your rotation experience. When your preceptor trusts you to accurately complete tasks, it contributes to the overall experience and can motivate you even more. Once this trust is earned, it’s equally important for the preceptor to build upon it with the student. Entrust the student to work on higher-level tasks and encourage them to be more independent. This will help lay the foundation of a strong, self-directed, and confident career for the student pharmacist.
This article was collaboratively written by fourth-year Chicago State University pharmacy students Jessica Reyes, PharmD Candidate 2017, and Motaz Nassan, PharmD Candidate 2017.

Recommended Reading
Ormrod, JE Educational Psychology: Developing Learners.4th ed.. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall;2003.

Bain K. What the Best College Teachers Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2004.

Ayesha Khan, PharmD, BCPS
Ayesha Khan, PharmD, BCPS
Ayesha M. Khan, PharmD, BCPS, is a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Chicago State University College of Pharmacy (CSU-COP) and maintains a practice site at Rush University Medical Center. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy in 2012 and then completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at The University of Toledo Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.
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