Ask Questions, Get Feedback to Make the Most of APPE Rotations

To maximize this challenging experience, pharmacy students should be eager to learn and inquisitive.

Fourth-year pharmacy students are entering their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs), marking the end of an era and the start of a new adventure.

Some students may make a smooth transition, but others may feel anxious and unsure about what to expect. This was my experience, and I am here to tell you it is OK.

It is normal to feel anxious or ill-prepared. After all, APPE students are expected to perform at the highest level of their knowledge. Be that as it may, it is important to be patient. We are only human, and though we are expected to be knowledgeable, the truth is that we do not know everything. Life itself is a learning curve, and everyone has to start somewhere.

To gain the most from APPE rotations, pharmacy students must be eager to learn and inquisitive. Ask thought-provoking questions and always ask why to dig deeper and read more. It is easy to answer the “what,” such as what are the first-line medications used to treat diabetes, hypertension, heart failure. But why are they the first-line agents? What evidence supports their use? Some students may think they do not know how to think critically, but this skill starts by asking “why.”

Additionally, pharmacy students must ask for feedback. Asking for feedback does not necessarily mean asking what was done right or wrong in a particular situation, but it can mean asking for a deeper exploration. Rather than asking “Is there anything that I can improve on?” ask open-ended questions, such as “What aspects of communication, leadership, patient care, and inter-professionalism can I improve upon?” Alternatively, “How do you feel about my style of communication? My leadership skills? How I deal with patients?” Whatever the response, use it as a strategy for growth. For students with an inquisitive mindset, asking for feedback should not feel painful.

When trying to improve skills, pharmacy students should not be afraid to ask other students for feedback, especially those who excel in these specific areas. Pharmacy students should recognize their strengths and use them to their advantage, while remaining mindful of their weaknesses and working to improve them. They should be honest with themselves, and let preceptors know what those weaknesses are and ask how best to improve them.

Finally, preceptors show up every day, hoping to impart knowledge. Pharmacy students should show them their appreciation and let them know that their work does not go unnoticed. Positive reinforcement is a 2-way street. It is not an easy task to precept students, and it takes strength to remain committed, so pharmacy students should salute the ones who do.

Although APPE rotations can be challenging and stressful, asking questions and finding enjoyment in the challenge is vital to get the most out of these experiences. Pharmacy students should build partnerships with preceptors and fellow students and learn to recognize their strengths and weaknesses to become the best possible pharmacists.