5 Tips on How to Succeed During Your APPEs


During pharmacy school you are required to complete several advanced pharmacy practice experience rotations.

During your last year of pharmacy school you are expected to complete a number of advanced pharmacy practice experience rotations. These experiences are way different than your Introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPES), as they do not focus primarily on dispensing but you get to see a more clinical side of pharmacy. Much more is expected of you.

You are expected to present patient cases in front of your peers where you dive into the primary issue of what brought the patient to your pharmacy in the first place.

You are expected to participate in a number of journal clubs where you analyze trials and statistical data and discuss the findings with your peers.

You also have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want to gain insight and experience from your preceptor and other members of the healthcare team. I’ve gained so much experience already from the 18 weeks I’ve completed so far during my APPEs and have already learned so much.

Here are 5 tips that I would like to share with you that might help you succeed during your APPE clinical experience rotations:

1. Avoid just saying “I don’t know.”

Of course we’re never going to know everything, it is absolutely impossible. Even as pharmacists you will never have the answer to even question that comes your way but it is important to have the correct and professional response whether you’re responding to your preceptor or a patient out on the field. When I get asked a question that I don’t know the answer to, I always respond by saying something such as “I don’t know the answer to that question but I will be sure to look it up and get back to you” or if it is a time sensitive matter “I don’t know off the top of my head but if you can give me a few minutes I will have the answer for you.” This shows the preceptor that you are willing to put in the time and effort to find the answer to their questions and it only helps you build your knowledge as well as it makes you do the research rather than your preceptor just giving you the answer to the question.

2. Carry around a notebook.

Some students I have met refrain from this for whatever reason. Even if I don’t necessarily think that I need to write it down or believe I’ll be able to remember it, I’ve learned to jot down the information anyway. It looks a lot better just referring to your own material to answer a question on how to do something or maybe a lab value your preceptor told you were critical rather than having to ask the preceptor to repeat themselves about information that they have already discussed with you. I have a notebook specifically dedicated to my APPE rotations where I have written down almost every detail I have discussed concerning topic discussions of different disease states, creatinine clearance cutoffs for various drugs, and main counseling points for medications that I have had to discuss with patients. Yes my notebook is a little bit all over the place but it allows me to recall the various things that I’ve learned while on rotations and really refreshes my memory so that I can eventually store it into my long term memory.

3. Don’t be scared to ask a question, even if you think it may be stupid.

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before but there is no such thing as a stupid question. Remember that you are on these rotations in order to learn and your preceptors are there to aid in your learning process, guiding you, answering questions, and teaching you how to be a good pharmacist. Ask as many questions as you need because after graduation you will be the one answering them. You will officially be on your own, so take advantage of the opportunities you have now.

4. Don’t be arrogant.

Too many students make this mistake. I’ve been on rotations with students and also have heard stories from my peers about students that believe they are always right. They get defensive with their preceptors and cannot accept the fact that they are correct. The reality is that no one likes a know-it-all. Be receptive to constructive criticism, be open to the learning process, and understand that you are not always going to have the best answer. Your preceptor will respect you more if you don’t act as if you’re better than everyone. It is important to know the difference between confidence and arrogance.

5. Always write a thank you card.

When you’re done with your rotation I suggest writing a handwritten thank you card. This gives you a chance to leave one last good impression and also gives your preceptor something to remember you by. Pharmacy is a very small world where everyone knows everyone and people talk. It is important that you always remain professional and respectful throughout your rotation. Thank your preceptor for the time they took out of their schedule to teach you and for all the experiences you have gained while being on rotation with them.

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