3 Methods to Maximize Your Community Pharmacy Rotations

If you've ever worked in a community pharmacy, you know it's a very hectic setting.

If you’ve ever worked in a community pharmacy, you know it’s a very hectic setting.

Because pharmacists are more accessible than physicians, patients come in with requests for drug recommendations, questions about interactions, and all other types of information. Not only do you have patients coming to you with questions, but you also have phones ringing off the hook, lines of cars at the drive-thru, and customers walking in and out, dropping off or picking up prescriptions.

Comparing my ambulatory care rotation with my advanced community one, I realized I wasn’t learning as much as I desired to. This is understandable because, in the ambulatory setting, I noticed my preceptor had more time to spend one-on-one with me than the community pharmacist who has to give 5 flu shots, answer 2 phone calls, and verify an endless number of prescriptions all at once.

To maximize my community pharmacy rotation, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Now, I’d like to pass the following knowledge to not only current students, but also fellow pharmacists looking to be more involved.

1. Look at the prescriptions you get and try to correlate them with what you remember and what you don’t.

At data entry or production, I don’t just enter in the information or grab the bottle off the shelf to fill the prescription. I try to analyze what’s in front of me and start thinking through this medication. For example, yesterday, while I was filling a prescription for oral vancomycin, the low-key dork in me took over and started thinking, “Oh no, someone has C. diff.”

I also find myself saying both brand and generic names in order to reinforce the information. For medications I don’t quite know yet, I make a note to look them up later on my own time. When it’s slow at the pharmacy, I take a quick glance at the medication guides, especially the indications and any other information I may have forgotten or just never learned. This helps me become more familiar with the drugs I’m dispensing and develop a better understanding of the information I should be passing along to patients.

2. Ask lots of questions.

Eight weeks into rotations, I find myself learning things never discussed in school. For example, a little boy was given the blood pressure medication clonidine and I couldn’t figure out why. A pharmacist on staff explained it was an off-label indication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which I never would’ve guessed. I was able to gain this information by asking questions, which is something I can’t stress to current/future interns enough.

It’s impossible to know everything, and you should never be embarrassed to ask. Even if you’re the only pharmacist on staff, make that call to your colleague at the other store or take note to conduct research in your free time to learn it on your own. The pharmacy world gets broader every day with new drugs and formulations constantly being developed and further studies concluding things we hadn’t thought of before. Always be aware that you committed to staying up-to-date when you took the Oath of a Pharmacist.

3. Prepare for consultations as much as possible.

Of course, you can never plan for all scenarios. You’re not going to read up on what happens the night before Mrs. Smith comes in to tell you she swallowed her laxative that was supposed to be inserted rectally. But, you should prepare for the things you can predict.

For example, right now, we’re leading into flu season, so you should know everything there is to know about flu shots. Be able to tell your patients what to expect and know the questions you should ask prior to administering the shot, like whether they’re allergic to eggs or latex. Plus, read up on OTC cough and cold medications.

Even if it’s just for 30 minutes a night, try to constantly expand your knowledge so you know your stuff. These are the things that will make you stand out as a student and help you continue to grow in your career.