Innovative education: A pharmacy student perspective on learning during a pandemic

By Caitlin Chew

When I first began pharmacy school, I never would have imagined finishing my degree during a global pandemic. From online practicums to virtual hospital pharmacy residency interviews, this year challenged me – and its given me opportunities to think about my education more creatively. As I approach my graduation, I’ve been reflecting on the opportunities the pandemic presented to learn in innovative ways.

In September 2020, I completed a pharmacy practice research rotation with Interior Health in Kelowna, BC. As part of my pharmacy training, in my fourth year, I have the opportunity to partake in three rotations in different areas of pharmacy practice. Given the travel restrictions at the time, my practice educator and I opted to pivot my rotation to a virtual one instead. We came up with a research idea that I would be able to execute online. Unlike any other practicum, I completed my 8-week rotation from the comfort of my own home. Over the next two months, I conducted a scoping review of existing literature that characterizes the types of clinical pharmacy services that are provided at small hospitals. In total, I screened over 4400 studies, completed a full-text review of over 500 papers, and included a total of 51 studies in our review. Thanks to Zoom, I was able to meet my preceptor on a daily basis to share my progress. We even organized a virtual presentation with the Interior Health Pharmacy Services team, where I was able to present my findings and generate discussion with clinical pharmacists surrounding the types of clinical pharmacy services that should be prioritized in a small hospital setting. The virtual nature of this practicum challenged me to take accountability and ownership of this project, as I managed my own time and reached out to the necessary resources. It also allowed me to share my research and engage with a larger reach of clinicians.


In December, I had the privilege of taking part in the Canadian hospital pharmacy residency matching process. A hospital pharmacy residency is a one-year, post-graduate training program where pharmacists learn the skills necessary to practice as a clinical pharmacist and a member of the interprofessional healthcare team. Because of the pandemic, these interviews took place online for the first time. Initially, I was nervous about preparing for the novelties of virtual interviews; I worried about making meaningful connections and presenting myself through a webcam as opposed to in-person. In the end, the virtual nature of these interviews surpassed my expectations. Screensharing and timekeeping functionalities increased interview accessibility, and technology allowed for seamless transitions from interview to interview. I’m grateful that the pandemic didn’t stop us from being able to complete the residency matching process. Thanks to this year’s innovative processes, I’ll be starting my hospital pharmacy residency at BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital this summer, and I’m beyond excited to get started.


More recently, in January, I completed my 8-week hospital pharmacy rotation at Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) in BC, where I had the opportunity to learn and practice within the Emergency Department. Practicing in the Emergency Department was a novel experience for me, let alone practicing during a global pandemic. I learned how to take the appropriate safety measures when caring for newly admitted patients. I spent my days providing patient care, working up patient cases, counselling patients on new medications and fielding COVID-19-related questions. While at RCH I also had the opportunity to attend numerous online case presentations, journals clubs, and education sessions hosted through the pharmacy department. The virtual nature of these presentations increased their accessibility, allowing more individuals, including students like me, to participate. With the novelty of the COVID-19 vaccines at the time, it was helpful to join discussions surrounding the efficacy and safety profiles of these novel vaccines.


This year was filled with challenges, both mentally and academically – but it allowed me to grow as a learner and a future clinician. Despite the circumstances, I wanted to make my last year of pharmacy school as memorable as possible, filled with clinical and academic opportunities. With a little creativity, I was able to do so. I hope to bring this sense of adaptability and innovation into my future practice as a clinical pharmacist.


Caitlin Chew is a pharmacy student.