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Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy
APPE Rotation Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic: How Maintaining A Positive Attitude Can Make Way For Opportunity
by Skyler Boll, PS-4 Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy
I began my APPE curriculum in April. When our first day of rotations was approaching, COVID-19 cases were rising in Illinois. Before we knew it, my class and I were beginning to receive cancellation emails regarding our first rotation due to the high number of cases. Certain rotations were unavailable or limited to a small number of students due to restrictions placed by the sites. It was out of everyone’s control. Our once clear rotation schedules started to become blurry, and it became challenging to orient a smooth path to graduation. On top of the cancellations, cases were still on the rise, many people were becoming critically ill, and what we once called a normal life was quickly redefined. It was easy to become discouraged, apprehensive, and concerned for others during a time where everything was constantly changing. However, during all of this uncertainty, I reminded myself of why I pursued pharmacy school and why I have dreamed of becoming a pharmacist since I was in high school. I allowed myself this time to reflect, and to recall upon the fact that serving others during critical and uncertain times is why I signed up to be a pharmacist.
Since the beginning of my third year of pharmacy school, I was looking forward to my fourth-year rotations more than anything. I found myself motivated to start my career as a pharmacist through the experience I would gain, and to immerse myself in a variety of practice sites. Unfortunately, my first and fourth rotations were cancelled due to the peak of cases in Illinois. I was supposed to be in the emergency room at my first site, and I was really excited for the experience. When I received the email informing me that the rotation was cancelled, I was disappointed. Walgreens was my replacement site, where I was hopeful, but still a little hung up on the fact that I would have been in the emergency room. During the first day at Walgreens, when I caught myself thinking of the situation, I took a second to remind myself that I am a firm believer that everything works out for the best. I am dedicating myself to serve and help others, and there are patients at this pharmacy who need help and answers during this stressful time. After this moment of clarity, my perspective completely changed. By the end of the first few days, I ended up loving my Walgreens site. I had an incredible preceptor who pushed me beyond my comfort zone as a student, and exposed me to being in the shoes of a community pharmacist. My preceptor gave me every direct patient care opportunity available, and challenged me to provide optimal care for each individual patient. I would not have had this site or preceptor if my first rotation had not been cancelled. One of the many things this experience taught me was to consider the positives of every experience. I strongly believe that I would not have had as positive of an experience if I had not readjusted my attitude towards the rotation on the first day. By embracing a situation and making yourself pliable, you open unlimited doors and you take away much more than if you had not opened your mind. You often learn the most about the experience and about yourself when you are in an unexpected position!
While I did not receive some of the rotation experiences that I originally anticipated, I would not trade the experience that I gained from my Community APPE rotation. I gained invaluable patient interaction experience working in a community setting during the first rise in COVID cases, where patients really needed the support and empathy more than ever during such a difficult time. This pandemic has constantly reminded me that everyone is in the same boat and no one knows what is to be expected, but it is up to us, as soon-to-be-healthcare professionals, to take what is thrown at as us by the horns and do all that is possible for our patients. An experience is truly what you make of it. Now more than ever is the time to embrace the ups and downs, even when it seems, at first, like there are a lot more downs!