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Washington State University

WSU guidance for rotations during COVID-19

WSU requires all students to either be vaccinated or have an approved exemption, in compliance with proclamation 21-14.1. WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) strongly encourages our pharmacy students to be fully vaccinated. As of October 2021, our fully vaccinated CPPS student population was (97%). We encourage students to get boosters when they are eligible and continue to follow CDC guidance. Students with a WSU exemption for the didactic setting are fully aware that an exemption must be sought at rotation sites, which may not be approved impacting site placement and progress in the PharmD program.

Students receive annual OSHA training which includes but is not limited to airborne precautions, proper handwashing, cough and respiratory etiquette, PPE information including donning and doffing.

Reinforcing on-site policies and procedures

Students on rotation must follow the policies and procedures at the practice site in which they are placed. We do not impose additional COVID-19 screening or testing policies beyond what the site requires. Preceptors can help by ensuring students are oriented to these procedures and are provided the same instructions as employees, so that students can safely participate in patient care. Students should monitor their health and stay at home when experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

A reminder to do the following on-campus and at practice sites:

  • Physically distance
  • Wear a face mask appropriate for the environment
  • When feeling ill stay home

Suggested strategies on-site:

  • Stagger student breaks, start and stop times with staff
  • Do not gather in groups for lunch when masks are removed
  • Limit students to working in areas not exposed to COVID-19 patients
  • Move students to remote functions as needed/permitted

Maintaining onsite rotations

The Washington State proclamation on March 23, 2020 deems the health care sector as critical infrastructure to protect the health and well-being of all Washingtonians. Health care providers, including student pharmacists, are considered “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” WSU CPPS has maintained on-site rotations throughout the pandemic in accordance with state and federal guidance.

Remote learning

Are sites able to provide remote learning opportunities for students?

APPE rotations: Yes. Many organizations have shifted to telehealth and remotely working. However, some sites may not allow students to access necessary systems remotely. The ability to shift to remote learning will depend on site policies, and necessary rotation activities specific to each rotation. Sites are not required to provide remote opportunities.

IPPE rotations: Possible, but unlikely. Due to the shortened nature of IPPE experiences, which is intended to introduce a practice experience, the learning outcome competency can be difficult to attest to without prior pharmacy practice experience. Thus, a fully remote rotation is unlikely. However, making up a small number of days remotely may be acceptable.

Illness, potential illness & contingency planning

Absence policy

WSU Student and Preceptor Manuals outline the absence policies. Students are allowed 4 excused absences for each APPE rotation, and 2 excused absences for IPPE rotations. All hours must be made-up. Those approaching the threshold should notify WSU Experiential Services (ES) to work through options.

General Illness & COVID-19 Exposures

Students who feel ill or have a known COVID-19 exposure should immediately notify their preceptor and may be required to notify a site’s employee health unit. Sites may require individuals to remain off-site pending COVID-19 testing (1-2 tests). Please refer to CDC guidance for COVID-19 exposure and illness for health care providers and quarantine or isolate as necessary.

Students will work with WSU ES and the preceptor to determine how to make-up for the missed experience.

Making up hours & staying on track

For those exposed and awaiting results we encourage preceptors to assign remote work allowing students to stay on track. We encourage preceptors and students to plan for this contingency in advance and discuss how this would be handled at the beginning of a rotation. While many organizations have increased flexibility for remote work during the pandemic we encourage preceptors to inquire with their own organization for rules related to students in advance.

Our goal is to enable students to safely continue to progress with their experiences. Students that must miss an excessive amount of time on a rotation will work with ES to determine options.

Remote learning tips

  • Set expectations of rotation hours when remotely working
  • Clarify access restrictions to patient data when off-site
  • Move to remote patient care functions (phone interviews, answering drug information questions, patient care workup, remote journal club and team meetings, etc.)
  • Assign projects that can be done from home
  • Meet daily virtually (all WSU students have Zoom and Microsoft Teams accounts)
  • Remind students professional attire is still expected when off-site

Helpful preceptor resources

WSU provided virtual rotations

At the initial onset of COVID-19 as the United States and health care organizations struggled with understanding what COVID-19 was and how to handle it, educational programs were significantly impacted by site rotation cancellations to preserve PPE and limit spaces to only essential personnel. WSU CPPS provided fully online remote rotations as needed within ACPE permitted special guidelines, which was discontinued in December 2020.

Canceling rotations

We understand that health system administration may dictate all rotation canceling or displacement of students during crisis. Rotation cancellation or removal from site can impact a student’s ability to graduate on time as reassigning a student elsewhere can be difficult.

Our students are health care providers in-training and our goal is to have them contribute, either in-person or remotely. We recommend preceptors consider remote options in advance to minimize disruption to both the practice site and learners.