Pharmacy Students Discuss Learning Experiences in Rural Communities

By attending more rural pharmacy programs, students said they had a unique perspective and experiences working with rural populations.

Pharmacy Times spoke with students from the Idaho State University College of Pharmacy and its partner program at the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health. By attending more rural pharmacy programs, students said they had a unique perspective and experiences working with rural populations.

Liv Swonger, PharmD candidate: Yeah, that's a really good question. So, we have had different lectures in regard to diversity and inclusion. Even though there hasn't been anything directly related to rural Alaska, I feel like we have been taught the mindset that's needed to help navigate these experiences, to be patient advocates in the community and cultures that are not necessarily our own. In addition, in our special populations module, we've had guest lecturers come from many topics discussing health care of Alaskan Native people, who make up the majority of the populations that you will see in rural areas within the state. And it really brought to light the value of clinical experience and how these treatments within the population might not always be reflective of a typical treatment course, or what you might find in the literature. So, understanding the nuances of their care can really optimize our therapy for them and decrease disparities that they face as a minority population.

Jessica Goodman, PharmD candidate: Yes, we do. We have our office of experiential education, so when we do our IPPEs and APPEs—specifically, for me, at least at this point, the introductory pharmacy practice experiences—we do have a lot of rural options available, as well as some more in the city. We also do a lot of outreach events that can go to rural areas like vaccination clinics, health screenings for diabetes, and heart issues. Personally, I'm part of our substance use disorder and over the counter medication organization. So, we do a lot of different events to reach out to those rural populations because we are very close to them. Even in Anchorage, you drive an hour and it's rural. So yeah, we have a lot of outreach and we do a lot of that with our experiential education.

Kristen Morse, PharmD candidate: I believe the curriculum is set up in a very thought-out way. ISU allows us to sit on faculty committees like assessment and accreditation (which I'm a part of), curricular affairs, student affairs. And being on that committee, I've learned just how hard the faculty works for us and how much thought and time they put into each and every part of the program. Nothing is too small to think about and it really ensures that we have the best education and success as students and future pharmacists. We have a systematic way of learning and it's integrated through a modular approach to disease states. So, it's kind of like how the MD programs are set up. So, we actually have more educational outcomes and objectives than are required for the NAPLEX. So, they make sure we go above and beyond to really know everything there is about pharmacy. And we have special health care classes, I don't know if other programs have them as well, but those classes are there to help us learn about health care in general. But it's been recently adapted to educate us about all the amazing changes that have come in pharmacy and are expected to come. So, it's made to where we can go just kind of jump on the ground running to work at the top of our licenses because of the advanced practice laws that we have in Idaho to allow us prescriptive authority. In those health care classes, we talk a lot about billing and coding related to pharmacists billing to insurances. Even though a lot of insurances don't see us as providers right now, it's expected that that'll happen in the future, and most likely after we graduate so it helps ensure that once you graduate, and once it's approved, we will know how to bill those services and provide them so patients can utilize them.