After spending most of the first year of their pharmacy education at a distance, last May class of 2024 Washington State University student pharmacists ventured onto campus in Spokane and Yakima, Washington for four days of in-person instruction and testing. These four days laid the final groundwork to prepare the students for their second year, which will be taking place in-person starting August 23.
During the 2020-21 academic year, classes were conducted from a distance with students tuning in weekly via Zoom for live instruction and completing compounding and lab assignments from home using supplies shipped by college staff to WSU pharmacy students across the country. However, some compounding and patient practice trainings could not be completed from a distance.
“We were unable to send drugs or lab glassware to our PY1 students which they use in the lab to compound the drug products,” explained Pharmaceutical Sciences Assistant Professor Ayesha Ahmed who serves as the Spokane instructor of record for Pharmaceutics Lab. “PY1 students coming to the campus allowed us to provide the required training related to this course in a timely way, when they actually learned how to make the drug products.”
Ahmed worked with the Yakima Pharmaceutics Lab instructor of record, Pharmacotherapy Assistant Professor Damianne Brand as well as Pharmaceutical Sciences Associate Professor Connie Remsberg to organize the compounding portions of the in-person instruction.
“I loved seeing the seeing the students face to face. Though I got to know them through Zoom, it was nice to be able to evaluate their understanding in real time and correct habits,” said Brand.
To help students gain hands-on skills in sterile compounding, they practiced the steps required to handwash and garb (putting on the protective clothing in the correct order to enter a cleanroom) and the proper technique to clean a horizontal laminar airflow workbench. While working within a mock hood, students compounded multiple sterile preparations using a process known as aseptic technique during which they try to prevent any contamination. These simulation activities allowed students to get a feel for what it is like to work in a real compounding facility. Students also had to prepare inpatient order labels for each product. For non-sterile compounding activities, students prepared two products, performed quality control tests on their products, completed compounding records and filled out transcribed prescription forms.
In addition to compounding activities, students also practiced designing patient case treatment plans and counseling as well as testing cholesterol and blood sugar.
“Typically, students will provide [cholesterol and blood sugar testing] as a free service at health screening events,” said Pharmacotherapy Assistant Professor Taylor Bertsch who serves as the Spokane instructor of record for the first year of Applied Patient Care. “[When students were on campus] was the first time that they were able to practice this skill, so we trained them how to properly glove up, sanitize, use lancets and pipettes, and provide feedback to patients based on their testing results.”
Bertsch worked with the Yakima APC instructor of record, Christina Buchman, to ensure students learned the practical skills they would need going into their second year and for future patient care.
The four days of in-person activities were made possible by the support of faculty and staff from across the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Beyond the instructors of record for these courses, college administration, business services, lab techs, additional faculty and teaching assistants from other courses, and even one faculty member’s spouse contributed their time to making it possible to have students on campus safely to learn these hands-on skills.
“It required a team of instructors, staff support, and teaching graduate assistants who did an awesome job of helping throughout the semester and especially during the in-person training week so that this could be carried out successfully on campus,” said Ahmed. “Without their help it would have been very difficult.”