The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education issued revised standards (Standards 2007) for professional programs leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy degree in July 2007. The new standards require colleges and schools of pharmacy to provide pharmacy practice experiences that include direct interaction with diverse patient populations. These experiences are to take place in multiple practice environments (e.g., community, ambulatory care, acute care medicine, specialized practice areas) and must include face-to-face interactions between students and patients, and students and health care providers. In 2009, the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) identified concerns among their members that training for some students during the fourth year of pharmacy curriculums are essentially observational experiences rather than encounters where students actively participate in direct patient care activities. These ACCP members also stated that there is a need to identify effective mechanisms for preceptors to balance patient care responsibilities with students' educational needs in order to fully prepare graduates for contemporary, patient-centered practice. The 2010 ACCP Educational Affairs Committee was charged to provide recommendations to more effectively foster the integration of pharmacy students into direct patient care activities during advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs). In this commentary, the benefits to key stakeholders (pharmacy students, APPE preceptors, clerkship sites, health care institutions, academic pharmacy programs) of this approach are reviewed. Recommendations for implementation of direct patient care experiences are also provided, together with discussion of the practical issues associated with delivery of effective APPE. Examples of ambulatory care and acute care APPE models that successfully integrate pharmacy students into the delivery of direct patient care are described. Enabling students to engage in high-quality patient care experiences and to assume responsibility for drug therapy outcomes is achievable in a variety of practice settings. In our opinion, such an approach is mandatory if contemporary pharmacy education is to be successful in producing a skilled workforce capable of affecting drug therapy outcomes.
© 2012 Pharmacotherapy Publications, Inc.