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Precepting students a win-win for pharmacists

March 7, 2018

One of the biggest reasons that could hold a pharmacist back from becoming a preceptor is that old adage: “I don’t have time.” The fear, of course, is that pharmacists have too much on their plates to supervise and teach a student. While those are aspects of a preceptor’s job, pharmacists who accept University of Alberta students for an eight-week rotation get plenty back in return. “Students bring an innovative, creative energy to a practice setting that allows the preceptor to advance their practice and look at the things they’re doing in a more holistic way,” said Ann Thompson, Assistant Dean, Experiential Education at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “And students extend the arm of the pharmacist. They can spend more time with a patient who needs more time. Or they can help get projects done that might not otherwise get completed. There can be a win-win environment in having a student at your site.” In addition to those benefits, precepting students can be a rewarding experience for pharmacists.

“I compare day one of their rotation to eight weeks later and I feel rewarded to see how the students evolve and how I’m contributing to their learning,” said Nadine Abou-Khair, Pharmacy Manager at Calgary Co-Op.

Nadine is one of several Alberta pharmacists who have offered to give students a broader experience through the revamped PharmD program at U of A. Nadine provides a travel clinic and a diabetes clinic in her pharmacy.

“It’s a hands-on experience for my student,” said Nadine. “At the beginning of the placement, they shadow me and as we go, they’ll be able to work on assessments, counsel patients, make recommendations, and take on more.”

The experiential component of the new PharmD program has been increased to allow students greater opportunities (and time) to practice and refine their skill set. The program also offers fourth-year students the opportunity to complete a mandatory elective experience, which includes opportunities in non-patient care settings. Rob Vretenar is the Executive Director for Provincial Operations, Pharmacy Services, for AHS. His student, James Tao, was interested in learning about management and leadership. James is discovering an entirely different side of pharmacy—a side few get the opportunity to see.

“We’ve had him involved in all of our senior leadership team meetings and he’s exposed to all the strategic discussions and budget discussions, because this is what happens in the background,” said Rob. “It really does open a student’s eyes to there being more to pharmacy than being a front-line care provider. It’s a wonderful opportunity. Front-line support is critical, for sure, but this gives them a strategic leadership perspective.”

James rates the experience of working with senior leaders at AHS as a 10 out of 10.

“It’s been valuable for me because I’ve always wanted to be a leader in pushing our profession and creating change,” said James. “It’s important to have change leaders who are willing to innovate the way we practice pharmacy. This has given me the opportunity to build the framework around how I can push the envelope and use my abilities to lead change. I think it’s given me the right vision, the right mindset, and the tools I need to be a leader wherever I go.”

Whether you would like to be a preceptor to provide a student with a traditional, patient-care experience, or a non-patient-care rotation such as leadership, management, research, or project work, the U of A would like to hear from you.

“We really want to attract new preceptors to the program who can share their passion and unique learning opportunities with our students, setting them up for success in their career,” said Ann.

For more information about the various experiential opportunities available, email Ann in the Office of Experiential Education at