Remote experiential education: A silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic
This commentary addresses key differences between remote and on-site experiential education, including necessary resources and rotation structure. Health care education during the COVID-19 pandemic was primarily delivered electronically. Student-based resources such as computers/laptops, stable internet connections, and privacy (physical space and electronic security) became essential for student learning, testing, and provision of patient care. When student resources were limited, educational programs had to adapt to help students in need. Preceptors were required to restructure experiential rotations to provide learning experiences while keeping up with increased clinical-related workloads. Students had increased projects and papers and decreased face-to-face time with patients and professionals. Many community pharmacies were able to educate students on-site, whereas ambulatory care–based sites generally pivoted to telehealth-based interactions. Although telehealth appeared useful, rollout was difficult because of differences in technology, accessibility, and capability. Inpatient-based training proved most difficult and often had to be halted for patient and student safety. Many schools also used unique non–patient care electives to fill experiential gaps and keep students on target for graduation. Delivery of experiential education had a different set of challenges from didactic education. Creative examples to address these challenges included roving tablets with Zoom sessions during rounds, artificial or de-identified cases, and hybrid clinical/dispensing rotations, though most experiences were canceled or restricted by exclusion of patients with COVID-19 patients. Overall, pharmacy education continued. However, many of the methods for training with partly or entirely remote approaches were novel and may become integrated into the “new normal.” The face of the world has changed, and pharmacy education must change with it.