Background: Pharmacy schools across North America have been charged to ensure their students are adequately skilled in the principles and practices of pharmaceutical care. Despite this mandate, a large percentage of students experience insufficient opportunities to practice the activities, tasks and processes essential to pharmaceutical care. The objective of this retrospective study of pharmacy students was to: (1) as "proof of concept", test the overall educational impact of an enhanced advanced pharmacy practice experiential (APPE) model on student competencies; (2) develop an instrument to measure students' and preceptors' experiences; and (3) assess the psychometric properties of the instrument.
Methods: A comparative-experimental design, using student and preceptor surveys, was used to evaluate the impact of the enhanced community-based APPE over the traditional APPE model. The study was grounded in a 5-stage learning model: (1) an enhanced learning climate leads to (2) better utilization of learning opportunities, including (3) more frequent student/patient consultation, then to (4) improved skills acquisition, thence to (5) more favorable attitudes toward pharmaceutical care practice. The intervention included a one-day preceptor workshop, a comprehensive on-site student orientation and extending the experience from two four-week experiences in different pharmacies to one eight-week in one pharmacy.
Results: The 35 student and 38 preceptor survey results favored the enhanced model; with students conducting many more patient consultations and reporting greater skills improvement. In addition, the student self-assessment suggested changes in attitudes favoring pharmaceutical care principles. Psychometric testing showed the instrument to be sensitive, valid and reliable in ascertaining differences between the enhanced and traditional arms.
Conclusion: The enhanced experiential model positively affects learning opportunities and competency acquisition, as measured by a new instrument showing sound psychometric properties.