Cheers to the beginning of summer and the start of APPE rotations for so many rising P4 pharmacy students! APPEs are such an incredible experience but I know the idea of going on rotations after classroom learning, mixed in with post graduation soul searching and preparation can be a bit daunting. I did a pharmacy school panel the other week actually and these topics came up a ton so I figured I’d round up my biggest tips for a successful APPE year into one convenient post. As always if you have any follow up questions you can leave them below or ask me on IG!
1. Reputation is everything
This is hands down the most important thing you can keep in mind during your APPE year and honestly you’re entire career: reputation is everything. I’m sure you’ve already heard others in the field, professors, etc., say, “pharmacy is such a small world” and you may even be sick of hearing it by now but it could not be more true. The more I grow in my career, the more I am astonished at all the little connections and who knows who I’ve stubbled upon. It’s like the saying goes that people may not remember your words but they will always remember how you made them feel…well as a pharmacy student your preceptors and coworkers may not remember every little intervention, or question or even mistake, BUT they WILL remember your overall attitude, your willingness to work as a team, your passion for patient care, your desire to learn, and so forth. The overall perception of you will follow you throughout your career, so make sure it’s a good one. Be the student that puts their best foot forward everyday (yes even on a rotation that isn’t your favorite) and I promise the reputation you carry into your career will be one that opens so many opportunities and connections in the future.
2. It’s okay not to know everything
One of the biggest mistakes I think students make is putting too much pressure on themselves to know everything. I’m not saying don’t prepare for a new rotation or never study and learn on your own time, BUT what would be the point of going on rotations if you were asked to be an expert before you even started? The whole idea of APPE rotations is to be exposed to a bunch of different areas of pharmacy practice and to gain experience and knowledge DURING said rotations. As a preceptor I never want my students to feel like they aren’t smart because they didn’t know something or be afraid to ask questions or look up information before giving an answer. There is never a time as a student or as a pharmacist where it is wrong to say you aren’t sure but will look into it and get back to them. Rotations are all about gaining knowledge and experience so embrace what you don’t know and keep your mind open to learning!
3. Embrace each rotation to it’s fullest
Every rotation you encounter will teach you something, even if it doesn’t sound like a rotation you’d enjoy when you initially get it or it’s not in an area of interest, every single rotation can benefit you. So tip number one here is keep an open mind with every new experience and try to learn as much as possible in each area you encounter, after all at the end of APPE year the goal is to truly be a well rounded pharmacist! Tip number two though is so so important…if you feel like you aren’t getting an experience you need or want, ASK for it! Ask to work on an extra project, ask to take on another presentation, ask to help with a resident’s research project even if it’s just data collection, ask to shadow another specialty/preceptor at that location, and so on. Almost any rotation you go on will have more to offer you than just what is required or normal for that rotation. I was able to add a lot of things to my CV during my P4 year by asking for additional work or experiences during my rotations which ended up being so helpful for residency applications. This can also be helpful if you end up not getting a rotation in a specific are of clinical interest and your rotation is at an institution that does offer that specialty. In that case, simply explain your interest in X area and ask if it’s possible to shadow one of those pharmacists for a day or two. Generally speaking, especially when it comes to students who are clearly passionate about pharmacy and learning, if you ask for an opportunity or experience your preceptor will be happy to help make that happen for you if it is possible.
4. Record everything – knowledge & experiences
I was not as good about this as I initially wanted to be, but if you can stick with it throughout the year it will be so helpful! Recording things you learn or key drug/therapeutics info you want to remember or utilize later is pretty self explanatory. It’s a great idea to do as a student since you are constantly in a learning environment but it’s also a great idea as you go throughout your career, especially when you enter a new job/role! The other key things to keep track of somehow are your interventions, experiences, projects, patient interactions, etc. It may be helpful to think about it in terms of interview questions, a lot of these call upon you to remember a time when you ___ or discuss a situation when you ___. Some are more simple like tell me about an intervention you made while on rotation, but even that requires you to remember your past work, so to be prepared for interviews later on record these things as you go. (You can find helpful interview question resources here: Resource 1, Resource 2, Resource 3). I’d suggest having two different pocket notebooks, one for drug/therapeutics clinic knowledge and the second for your experiences (aka interview prep).
5. Network, network, network!
Similarly to it being important for a good reputation to follow you throughout your career, the network you build for yourself can be just as important for future opportunities. Of course, it’s easier to develop a large network when you have a good reputation, so that’s really step one, but it still takes some courage and work to develop. When you think about how many different areas you get to practice in and how many preceptors, other pharmacists, and pharmacy students you meet during APPE year, it’s very easy to see what an amazing opportunity this year is for developing your network. Many students in my opinion don’t take advantage of this as much as they can. Going “above and beyond” on rotations and taking on extra work can help increase your exposure to other pharmacists and broaden your network but don’t forget to also voice your future goals and desire to pursue residency/fellowship as well if that applies to you. Expressing my desire to pursue a residency strengthened my relationship with a lot of my clinical preceptors and helped me to get great letters of recommendation for applications, which is essentially required networking for applications in a way. If you plan on pursuing a different area like retail, compounding, etc take full advantage of any relationship you can make in those areas. Again, obviously just being an eager passionate pharmacy student will go a long way here but don’t be afraid to speak up, introduce yourself, gain extra experiences and the relationships that go along with them!
APPE Rotation Essentials
Throwbacks from my APPE year – 2018 to 2019