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Structured Practical Training and COVID-19

May 13, 2020
Is your practice site able to provide an optimal environment for SPT participants?

There’s little doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has created a challenging practice environment for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. As the most accessible healthcare professionals, you are being depended on more than ever to provide quality care to Albertans.

While pharmacy team members—both in hospitals and community—may be experiencing increased levels of activity and stress, it may be increasingly difficult to provide an optimal environment for provisional pharmacists and provisional pharmacy technicians who are completing ACP’s Structured Practical Training (SPT) program. SPT is intended to allow soon-to-be-regulated pharmacists and pharmacy technicians the opportunity to practise and demonstrate their skills, and have their skills evaluated in a supervised practical environment before assuming sole responsibility. In the middle of a public health emergency, this can be a huge challenge.

Advice for preceptors

If a provisional pharmacist or provisional pharmacy technician has reached out to you as a potential preceptor, only accept the invitation if you believe you will be able to meet the obligations of a preceptor. If you feel unable to do so, it may be better to wait for a more appropriate time. Also, ensure you can meet all the requirements of a preceptor, and understand the roles and responsibilities.

If you are already precepting an SPT participant, make sure your practice setting has appropriate staffing levels so that you can devote the necessary time and energy to your precepting responsibilities. Also, make sure to communicate to provisional pharmacists and provisional pharmacy technicians that what we’re experiencing during the pandemic is not “normal.” Many adjustments have been made to our standards and guidelines to enable pharmacy professionals to provide care during this time. Additionally, the provision of pharmacy care is more likely to be through virtual or distanced means, creating patient interactions that may be difficult to learn from. It’s more important than ever for you and your team to stay informed about the latest guidelines and standards that could have a direct impact on your practice.

Ensure that, as a preceptor, you are critically reflecting on the quality of the learning environment, before deciding to proceed with SPT, and throughout.

Advice for provisional pharmacists and provisional pharmacy technicians

Remember, SPT is about more than simply completing the minimum hours required at each level.

Levels 1 and 2 allow learners the opportunity to observe, practise, and develop confidence in applying the skills needed to be a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Level 3 is intended to confirm proficiency in all entry to practice competencies and assess a learner’s final readiness to practise independently as a pharmacy professional. It is important for provisional registrants to continually evaluate their own learning needs and seek additional guidance or time if they feel unprepared for any aspect of practice. Only then, will you be able to advance to the next level of SPT or apply for the clinical pharmacist register or pharmacy technician register.


It is even more important during these unique times, with non-customary pharmacy practices and patient interactions, that all members of the pharmacy team are aware of the appropriate levels of supervision for provisional registrants at each stage of their SPT. Please refer to our updated supervision webpage for more details.

For more information on precepting or completing SPT during the pandemic, visit the ACP website.