Selecting Your APPE Rotations to Better Prepare for Residency Training
Selecting your Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) rotations can be both exhilarating and overwhelming.
Selecting your Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) rotations can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. While rotations for Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences generally have a limited scope of practice, each APPE rotation potentially offers a preview of the pharmacist’s role within each area of clinical practice and therefore requires careful and deliberate planning.
Rotations are an opportunity to showcase your abilities to prospective employers and residency directors and can serve as an extended interview for postgraduate opportunities. These experiences allow you to make the connection between textbook evidence and daily clinical practice and help to reinforce key concepts learned throughout didactics. Whether you are fully certain of your career path or still undecided, APPE rotations are your 1 opportunity to be exposed to a plethora of areas in practice that you likely will not have the chance to participate in once you land a job.
Although each college of pharmacy has its own system for selecting APPE rotations, most programs afford students a fair amount of participation in the process. That being said, it is your responsibility to make the most of this time; thousands of other pharmacy students are in your exact position each year, so it is crucial for you to stand out. While there is no single recipe for success, there are some basic principles that all pharmacy students should follow.
Do Your Research
Take time to read the information available from your school prior to selecting a rotation. In addition to referencing the general schedule posted, reviewing the preceptor’s curriculum vitae, and skimming the basic description of the site, you should read former students’ comments on the rotation or reach out to students who completed the rotation for an “off-the-record” review.
Also, consider exactly what you want to achieve from each rotation. Are you hoping for access to the residency director? Would you like to earn a letter of recommendation? With your goals in mind, proceed with your selection process by reviewing sites that have similar mission statements. Selecting a rotation based on a site’s reputation, rather than putting in the effort to secure your experience, is a surefire way to the path to disappointment.
Front-Load Your Schedule
Consider the areas you are most interested in, and try to schedule those rotations prior to midyear. Not only does this give you an opportunity to see whether you will truly enjoy that area of practice, but it also allows you to work to earn a letter of recommendation from your preceptor in the field of pharmacy to which you are applying for residency. Additionally, if you plan to ask your preceptor for a recommendation, consider discussing that during the first week of rotation. Most sites have a syllabus, and typically the preceptor will take a few minutes to discuss the objectives of the experience before asking what you hope to gain at the site. This is usually a good time to segue into your goals of residency and, from there, your desire to earn a letter of recommendation.
The best thing I did on my rotations was picking an out-of-state experience; because I am someone who was born and raised in the same city, this decision was more about personal growth than professional development. Consider what is important for you to gain throughout your experiences, and search for rotation sites that will push you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you typically find yourself nervous about giving formal presentations, challenge yourself by choosing a rotation that has a heavy emphasis on public speaking, such as one in academia or an institution that participates in grand rounds.
Vary Your Choices
Even if you know that you love a specific field of pharmacy, consider selecting a variety of clinical areas and use this opportunity to participate in a wide array of pharmacy environments that you likely will not have exposure to during your career. I have gained a greater appreciation for many areas of pharmacy and health care professions in general throughout my time on rotations simply by diversifying my APPEs.
Make the Most of Every Experience
You can go the extra mile and do everything right in preparing for your APPE selections, but things will probably still not go as planned, leaving you feeling discouraged and disappointed. One of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout clinical rotations is to never judge a rotation prematurely. Each site is meant to be different, meant to challenge you, meant to change you, and meant to teach you. Instead of comparing one APPE site with another, look at each experience as an opportunity to grow as a pharmacist in a new way.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to be the rate-limiting step in the learning process. Most preceptors are willing to teach you as much as you are willing to learn, but it is ultimately up to you to show the drive and initiative to seek out all the opportunities that your rotations have to offer.
Sarah Allen is a 2018 PharmD candidate at the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy.