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PCP Faculty Team Up to Help Students Complete Practice Experiences Amidst COVID Shutdowns

By Nicole Carrera

Published on August 24, 2020

Pharmacy students at USciences work hard to ensure they are prepared for real-world applications of their education. By participating in Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPE), students are able to get hands-on experience in professional settings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IPPEs in the spring 2020 semester were disrupted and students still had roughly 24 hours to complete before they could pass.  

Students participate in two IPPEs during their second professional year, Hospital Experience (RX490) and Advanced Community Pharmacy/Ambulatory Care (RX480). Professors from USciences’ Philadelphia College of Pharmacy came together to create an interactive virtual experiential course for students who had their IPPEs interrupted. Led by Alica Scaletta, PharmD, Jason Zupec, PharmD, Benjamin Pullinger, PharmD, and Michael Thomson worked together to help students reach their goals. 

“From the faculty perspective, it was so helpful for me to have so many faculty volunteers” shares Dr. Scaletta. “It was a very doable activity for each of us, since we each took a small chunk of those [24] hours.”

"We didn't want this to be another version of classroom lectures..."

-- Dr. Alice Scaletta

Taking practical on-ground experience and making it virtual is no easy feat. “We didn’t want this to be another version of classroom lectures, but rather we wanted to mmic the more hands-on, real-time learning that [students] would have received in their IPPEs,” Dr. Scaletta explains. 

To do this, the team of PCP faculty created various activities that covered about 13 of the 24 hours. These activities included researching COVID-19 related topics and having students present about their findings, watching and analyzing patient and provider encounters to learn more about motivational interviewing and prompting students to re-word poor encounters they were shown, watching a video encounter of a hospitalized patient and having them work through a medical chart to develop a therapeutic and medication plan to a complex patient, as well as watching videos about various medical devices and critiquing their technique.

The remaining 11 hours were more focused on the specific course the student was in at the time to meet their needs and interests. “For students to make their own schedule, they could choose from a ‘menu’ of activities delivered over several weeks,” explains Dr. Zupec. 

Most of the “menu” activities were live virtual events, and included topics such as practicing chart navigation, comprehensive medication/medical history review, provider communication, patient experience, and more. “In an actual IPPE setting, the activities should be catered around the setting, the unique patient population, and the student’s interests so that no two students have the exact same experience,” Dr. Scaletta explains. “We tried to accomplish this same feeling by giving them options.”

Both Dr. Scaletta and Dr. Zupec felt that students adapted quickly to the new format and were able to gain meaningful information and experiences, even in the new format. Dr. Scaletta emphasizes the importance of this successful transition for students, as they cannot advance to the next IPPE experience before completing RX480 and RX490. 

"[Our students] consistently make us proud!"

-- Dr. Jason Zupec

Dr. Zupec shares of PCP students, “While the virtual experience cannot fully replace live experience in the community, we can see our students are still engaged and better prepared for their upcoming advanced practice experiences. They consistently make us proud!” 

Categories: News, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Faculty, Students, Coronavirus