Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Qualitative Analysis of Common Concerns about Challenges Facing Pharmacy Experiential Education Programs

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Qualitative Analysis of Common Concerns about Challenges Facing Pharmacy Experiential Education Programs

Article excerpt


With the release of the American Council for Pharmacy Education's (ACPE) draft accreditation standards for pharmacy education, (1) which emphasize preceptor development and assessment in experiential education (EE), colleges and schools of pharmacy will likely be making changes to accommodate these standards. Faculty members and administrators in EE programs will now be faced with new challenges, in addition to existing difficulties in student placement capacity created by dramatic growth in number of pharmacy schools and student enrollments in recent years. (2-8) Even though many schools have expanded and reorganized their EE programs, (9-13) further reorganization may be necessary to realign job responsibilities with the new emphasis on quality improvement, preceptor development, and interprofessional education. (14,15) Now is a good time take stock of all concerns facing EE programs so that appropriate changes can be made to meet new accreditation standards.

In 2008, Haase and colleagues reported expert recommendations for ensuring quality in experiential education in a white paper sponsored by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. (16) This report described insights from practicing clinical pharmacists, many of whom were pharmacy faculty members and preceptors. Additional insights from pharmacy preceptors about EE were reported in 2008 and 2013. (17,18) Concerns from hospital pharmacists regarding capacity for placements in the hospital setting have also been published in the past 10 years. (19-21) However, few reports have been published about what faculty members and staff directly administering EE programs perceive as concerns.

In 2011, Danielson et al disseminated a survey analyzing the curricular, personnel, and financial characteristics of EE programs to EE directors across the United States. (13) As part of the survey, respondents were asked to describe the most pressing issues facing their EE programs. The results of this question were subsequently analyzed and are reported in this paper, so that additional insight from faculty members directly involved in administering EE programs could be shared publicly as many seek strategies for implementing new accreditation standards.


In 2011, EE directors at all 118 accredited schools of pharmacy in the United States were surveyed using a web-based questionnaire (Catalyst Web Tools, University of Washington Information Technology, Seattle, WA). As part of the 35-item questionnaire, respondents were asked the following open-ended question: "What are the 2 or 3 most pressing issues your professional experience program is facing today?" (13) Free-text answers were collected from May to December 2011 and downloaded to Microsoft Excel for analysis. Other data collected included type of institution (public or private) association with academic health centers, number of introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPEs) and advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs), number and position of EE faculty members/staff, and class size. Class sizes were categorized as small ([less than or equal to] 50 students), medium (51-100 students), large (101-150 students), and very large (>150 students). Identifying information about the individual completing the survey was not collected. Goal response rate was 70% (confidence 95%, margin of error 5%). (23-25) The project was approved as exempt by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division.

The investigation team included 2 faculty members (each with more than 10 years of experience in EE and 1 with training in qualitative methods) and 3 fourth-year doctor of pharmacy students. Investigators performed content analysis of the free-text responses using thematic analysis methodology informed by grounded theory. (26) First, the primary investigators, an EE expert (faculty member) and novice (student), identified standard themes through iterative, repeated comparison. …

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