COPHS adjusts to changing job market

The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is shifting its efforts to make pharmacy and physician assistant students more qualified for their rotations.

A new position—associate dean of clinical education and external affiliation—was created this past summer in order to foster relationships with preceptors in and beyond the Indianapolis community.

A preceptor is a professional who a sixth-year pharmacy student or a fifth-year physician assistant student shadows in order to gain real-world experience and training.

Julia Koehler, the faculty member promoted to the new position, said the associate dean position wasn’t created because of a lack of preceptors but because of challenges encountered when matching students with preceptors.

“We do have a sound preceptor base,” Koehler said. “We have done a really good job in this college of identifying preceptors, of identifying quality preceptors and quality sites who are willing to work with our students. I think our relationships with those external sites are really good at this point, and part of my job is maintaining those sites.”

COPHS Dean Mary Andritz said Koehler’s new position is outward-facing.

“It’s her job to be in close communication for all of these partners to see how we can best prepare our students prior to their last year so that it’s worthwhile for facilities to take Butler students,” Andritz said.

Koehler said only 25 percent of final-year pharmacy rotations are precepted by Butler’s own faculty. The remaining 75 percent are preceptor volunteers who are considered Butler adjunct faculty.

Andritz said she’s had preceptors turn down opportunities because hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies are short-staffed.

“The people who are advising our students have to give some of their time too,” Andritz said. “That’s a huge challenge, trying to create the right situation in which it’s not too burdensome for people to take our students.”

In order to combat students being a burden for preceptors, Andritz said COPHS is training students to use electronic medical records so that preceptors will not have to take the time to train students.

“We’re training to the extent that we can have the students be as prepared as possible before they get there,” Andritz said. “We really have to be in very close collaboration with the hospital setting, and we want it to be as easy a transition as possible so that [the preceptors] will keep doing it.”

Katie Andricopulos, a sixth-year pharmacy student, is currently on rotations and said she has gained valuable experience from her rotations.

“It’s very crucial to have a good preceptor who has time for a student and appreciates students,” Andricopulos said. “Every single one of my preceptors has certainly spent so much time working with me on a daily basis and explaining everyday responsibilities with me in detail. Every single one of them has shown great concern in my future success and has encouraged me to pursue a residency for next year.”

Bob Pison, a pharmacy manager and a five-year preceptor at a CVS in Fishers, said the biggest challenge he faces as a preceptor is staying current with what is being taught at Butler. He said he wants to allow students to apply what they learn in a pharmacy environment.

“What they learn in school is important,” Pison said. “But I believe what they learn from preceptors and externships is just as important.”

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