Third-Year Pharmacy Students' Work Experience and Attitudes and Perceptions of the Pharmacy Profession

Article excerpt

Objectives. To describe PharmD students' work experiences and activities; examine their attitudes towards their work; examine perceptions of preceptor pharmacists they worked with; and determine important issues associated with career preference.

Methods. A written survey was administered to third-year doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students at 8 colleges and schools of pharmacy in the Midwest.

Results. Five hundred thirty-three students (response rate 5 70.4%) completed the survey instrument. Nearly 100% of PharmD students reported working in a pharmacy by the time their advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) began. Seventy-eight percent reported working in a community pharmacy, and 67% had worked in a chain community pharmacy. For all practice settings, students reported spending 69% of their time on activities such as compounding, dispensing, and distribution of drug products.

Conclusions. Most students are working in community pharmacy (mainly chain) positions where their primary function is traditional drug product dispensing and distribution. Having a controllable work schedule was the variable most strongly associated with career choice for all students.

Keywords: pharmacy student, work experience, work activities, attitudes, career choice


The focus of pharmacy practice has changed over the past 10-15 years from drugs and their distribution to patient-centered care. The suggestion of pharmacy practice focused on patient care was first articulated by Hepler and Strand in 1990 as pharmaceutical care. (1) Many major pharmacy organizations and pharmacy educators have embraced pharmaceutical care as the primary focus of pharmacists' activities. However, for many pharmacy students, there is a clear disconnect between what they are being told by pharmacy faculty members and the reality they see in their pharmacy work experiences. (2) Pharmacy students hear about the importance of patient-centered care from faculty members, but these students face a different reality when they work in a pharmacy. Students find themselves in practice settings that are dominated by older models of practice. (3) By the time they reach their third-professional year in the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) program, many students have worked in a pharmacy-related job. This study is a description of those work experiences along with student attitudes and opinions about those experiences.

The objectives of this study were to describe pharmacy students' work experience for pay. In addition, we examined some quality of work issues by examining student attitudes and opinions towards their work. Finally, we examined student perceptions of how the preceptor pharmacists with whom they worked felt about their jobs.


A written survey instrument was developed to collect data on pharmacy work experience from third-year pharmacy students at 8 colleges and schools of pharmacy in the Midwest. The core variables were categorized as follows: work status, including whether the respondent ever worked in a pharmacy; current employment, including practice setting, work activities, attitudes and opinions regarding the work setting, and student perceptions of the pharmacists with whom they worked; and demographic information, including age, sex, marital status, and education. Variables were selected based on past research profiling the national pharmacy workforce. (4-6) The information collected on student work experience was part of a larger study on the assessment of student career aspirations that was previously reported. (7)

Study participants were considered a convenience sample. All students in either the third-year of a 4-year PharmD program (7 schools) or the fourth year of a 5-year PharmD program (1 school) were expected to participate. At each of the 8 colleges and schools, much effort was expended in arranging to have all students at that school or college of pharmacy assembled as one group to complete the survey instrument. …


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