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    Pharmacy Preceptors

    Pragmatic, inspiring, and dedicated, they teach the lessons we never forget


    The most significant moment of my pharmacy career came about five minutes into it. After years of textbooks and lectures, memorization and fact-cramming, test-taking and rote learning, it was finally — finally! — time to get some real-world experience. I was the type of student who was far more comfortable behind a book than applying what I knew, so I was a bit nervous as I grabbed a bottle of Capoten to count out my first prescription ... and promptly spilled every tablet on the floor.

    I'm giving away my age by saying that Capoten was a very expensive drug at the time, but there was no way my preceptor could have been pleased. He was running a business after all, and I prepared for his wrath.

    "First lesson," he said. "The state board will never take your license for slowing down and doing something correctly. Now come here and let me show you something."

    And that was that. Had my first coachable moment in pharmacy gone a little differently, you might be reading the continuing education article in the back of this magazine right now.

    A lasting influence

    Looking back on it, I realize more than I ever did back then that I had a pretty good coach. Time and time again, I've found myself almost channeling that first preceptor of mine, as some sort of unforeseen incident or unpredictable situation came my way, almost as if I were unconsciously handling things the way I think he would have done.

    I can't tell you the titles of most of those books I used to bury my head in those first few years at school, and many of the facts I memorized are now out of date, but to this day I will still tell my technicians that the state board will never take away their license for slowing down to make sure something is done correctly.

    I'll bet many of my colleagues feel the same way. You could argue that the pharmacy preceptor, the person in charge of the various definitions of "pharmacists in training," is the most influential position in the profession. An internship is the first exposure most of us have to the actual practice of pharmacy, and it takes a special type of person to be able to balance the tension between business and teaching, patient needs and student obligations, pharmacy practice and classroom guidance.

    Passion and heart

    David Pope
    "You have to have a passion for what you do, and a heart for training," said David Pope, PharmD, CDM, CDE, a preceptor at Barney's Pharmacy in Augusta, Ga. The rewards are opportunities to further the profession, he said, not the occasional small stipends available.

    While he does receive guidelines from the pharmacy schools he works with, The Universities of Georgia and South Carolina, Pope described precepting as a type of "freelance" relationship between the colleges and himself, one that allows ample opportunity "to put your own stamp on" a student's training. At Barney's, while everything from drug knowledge to ethical behavior is evaluated, particular emphasis is placed on teaching pharmacists how they can influence outcomes by becoming effective communicators with both prescribers and patients.

    "We put [interns] in front of patients as much as possible," Pope said, to give them plenty of opportunity to practice taking the scientific jargon of pharmacy school and translating it, "sometimes down to a fifth grade level."


    David Stanley, RPh
    David Stanley is a pharmacy owner, blogger, and professional writer in northern California. Contact him at [email protected]