Frequently Asked Questions

What is Experiential Education?

Experiential education provides students with real-life active participation and in-depth exposure in a variety of pharmacy settings. The Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPE) Education Program and the Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) Education Program together augment students’ classroom education by providing rotations in many aspects of contemporary pharmacy practice, and represent approximately one-third of the four-year program. Knowledge, practice skills, and professional attitudes and values must be integrated and applied, reinforced, and advanced throughout the curriculum, including the pharmacy practice experiences. To gain these experiences, students are assigned throughout the four-year program to pharmacist-preceptors at affiliated practice sites throughout Virginia and beyond for required and elective experiential education courses/rotations. 

What are the rotations and when do they take place?

The Doctor of Pharmacy student must complete three Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) rotations in the first three years of the program, and eight Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotations in the fourth year of the program, as follows beginning in 2011:

P1: PHAR 530 - Community Pharmacy Practice - 4 wks (160 hrs) at the end of the spring semester

P2: PHAR 532 - Hospital Pharmacy Practice - 3 wks (120 hrs) at the end of spring semester

P3: PHAR 533 - Service-Learning - 23 hrs during the P3 year for Class of 2014 and beyond

P4: PHAR 760 - Acute Care Pharmacy Practice I - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 761 - Advanced Hospital Pharmacy Practice - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 762 - Geriatrics Pharmacy Practice - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 763 - Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Practice - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 765 - Elective - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 766 - Elective - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 768 - Advanced Community Pharmacy Practice - 5 wks (200 hrs)

P4: PHAR 773 - Acute Care Pharmacy Practice II - 5 wks (200 hrs)

The IPPE rotations for P1s and P2 take place after final exams of the spring semester. The IPPE Service- Learning experience for P3s takes place throughout the P3 year. The APPE rotations for P4s begin the 3rd Monday in May, are interrupted for a winter break, continue the 2nd Monday in January, and conclude on the 4th Friday in April.

What are the differences between introductory (IPPE) and advanced (APPE) experiences?

The IPPE Program of 300 hours is for students in their first three (3) years of pharmacy school (P1, P2, and P3). IPPEs may use various formats, including shadowing of practitioners or students on APPEs; interviews with real patients; service learning; and real practice experiences in community and institutional pharmacies. With appropriate preceptor supervision and monitoring, students are introduced to and involved in the fundamentals of pharmacy practice and patient care experiences in actual practice settings and service learning experiences. IPPEs emphasize drug distribution functions, patient-focused dispensing, pharmacy management; and develop core practice skills, including communication, calculations, health promotion, ethics, medication safety, technology, informatics, and critical thinking. The APPE Program of 1,600 hours is for students in their 4th year of pharmacy school (P4). APPEs emphasize patient-centered care services, clinical skills, problem solving, and critical thinking by allowing students to integrate and apply, reinforce, and advance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values developed throughout the curriculum. With preceptor supervision and monitoring, students will be involved in obtaining patient medical and medication histories, evaluating drug therapies, identifying potential drug-related problems, developing pharmacy care plans, monitoring patients’ therapeutic outcomes, consulting with physician and non-physician providers, and providing patient and healthcare provider education, in addition to patient-focused dispensing and pharmacy management.

What expectations should preceptors have of students?

Preceptors should expect students to:

  • Complete pre-rotation assignments if assigned.
  • Be familiar with the syllabus and evaluation of competencies and professionalism.
  • Be on time, prepared, and concerned for patients’ outcomes.
  • Show interest and enthusiasm for your chosen profession.
  • Be actively engaged in learning and take charge of your education.
  • Complete homework if assigned.
  • Be prepared to work directly with a variety of people when the preceptor is not available and/or when the student is assigned to other staff or members of a team.
  • Respect any and all confidences revealed during each rotation, including patient confidentiality, pharmacy records, fee systems, professional policies, etc. Breaches will result in dismissal from the site and failure of the rotation.
  • Follow all specific policies, procedures, and requirements of each rotation site in addition to the policies, procedures, and requirements of the School of Pharmacy and the Office of Experiential Education.
  • Obey all laws and regulations that govern pharmacy practice, and must seek clarification of any point about which they are uncertain.
  • Uphold the School’s Attributes of Professionalism that describe appropriate behaviors, attitudes, and values of professionals. Breach of professionalism is grounds for dismissal from the site and failure of the rotation.

What expectations should students have of preceptors and practice sites?

Students should expect preceptors to:

  • Be well prepared and organized, including familiarity with the syllabus and evaluation of competencies and professionalism.
  • Clearly explain their expectations of the student, including an on-site orientation and a secondary supervisor in the absence of the preceptor.
  • Be approachable so the student can ask questions and obtain guidance.
  • Clearly communicate their knowledge.
  • Model appropriate relationships with other health professionals.Provide guidance regarding the student’s professional behavior.
  • Treat the student respectfully.
  • Verbally provide informal concrete feedback throughout the rotation regarding anything the student needs to improve before completing the rotation.
  • Discuss their formal evaluations and provide recommendations for continuing improvements.
  • Uphold the School’s Attributes of Professionalism that describe appropriate behaviors, attitudes, and values of professionals.

Students should expect practice sites to:

  • Provide a sufficient opportunity to meet the learning objectives of the course/rotation.
  • Provide adequate on-site and on-line learning resources to support the rotation.
  • Have personnel who are receptive and willing to interact with students.
  • Offer opportunities to interact with other professional colleagues.
  • Have physical accommodations appropriate for student learning.

What VCU requirements must students complete prior to rotations?

Prior to starting rotation(s), and in addition to passing required didactic courses in the curriculum, VCU requires Students to complete the following specific prerequisites:

Rotation prerequisites for all students due each spring:

  • Background Check Report and notice of order completion in Blackboard                
  • Contact Preceptor at least 30 days prior to rotation start date
  • Health insurance
  • Immunizations History Record: 3 Hep Bs + positive titer, Meningococcal, 2 MMRs, Tdap within 10 years, Varicella positive titer or 2 vaccines, plus annual TST results
  • Photo, head shot, professional attire, JPEG only (upload to CORE/RXpreceptor)  
  • Resume/CV (update & upload to CORE/RXpreceptor)
  • Student Rotations Contract, signed electronically in Blackboard
  • Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) results, 2-step at admission or by P-2 year, and 1-step annually each spring (updated in VCU Immunizations History record and uploaded to CORE/RXpreceptor)
  • Virginia pharmacy intern license

Rotation prerequisites for all students due each fall:

  • Immunization: Influenza (updated in VCU Immunizations History record and uploaded to CORE/RXpreceptor)

Rotation prerequisites for P3 students due each August (exact date TBD):

  • Certification of CPR BLS for Healthcare Providers w/live skills assessment from American Red Cross or American Heart Association
  • Certification of Immunization Administration Training from APhA
  • Successful completion of a background check is required for participation in rotations. Failure to have a clear background check report may prevent the Student from successfully completing the clinical education requirements and, therefore, the program.
  • In addition, sites may have additional requirements as discussed in the next question. Expenses associated with any of these requirements are the student’s responsibility.

What documents and/or processes do practice sites require of students?

Students must be attentive to any special requirements imposed by some sites before the start of student rotations. Specific site requirements, if provided by the site, are listed in CORE/RXpreceptor in the site description. Students are expected to make inquiries about special site requirements when contacting the preceptor one month in advance of the rotation. The site may decline to accept the student if he/she has not fulfilled the site-specific requirements by the due date imposed by the site. Consequently, the rotation may need to be rescheduled for the next available rotation block (and if applicable, may result in a delay in graduation). Any expenses associated with the site’s special requirements are the student’s responsibility.

Some examples of potential site-specific requirements:

  • Agreements/Documents – e.g. confidentiality, conduct, ethics, substance abuse, etc.
  • Drug Screen: 10- or 12-panel as required
  • Finger Printing
  • Health Insurance
  • Identification(s):  photo IDs, social security number &/or date of birth
  • Site Orientation:  Prior to the rotation or at beginning of rotation
  • Site-Specific Background Check
  • Site-Specific Training: Computer, HIPAA, OSHA, Security, etc.
  • Student name badge and white lab coat
  • U. S. citizenship:  Military sites exclude non-U.S. students and students with dual citizenship
  • Other TBD

When should the student contact the preceptor and what should be discussed?

The student must contact their preceptor one month (or more, depending on the site) prior to the start of each rotation to:

  • Introduce self.
  • Identify any documentation and/or processes that will be needed on the first day of the rotation, such as a drug screen, finger printing, health insurance, varicella titer, etc.
  • Obtain specific instructions for the first day of the rotation, such as dress code, parking, arrival time, where to meet, etc.
  • Schedule absences for residency and other interviews during APPE rotations with the permission of the preceptor and arrange make-up time in advance.
  • Inform the preceptor of any pre-approved excused absences during that rotation for designated holidays, professional meeting attendance, and/or required on- campus class assemblies and events. (Excused absences to attend professional meetings require the prior approval of the Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services.)

What should the student do if the preceptor does not respond to the student's initial contact?

First, verify the accuracy of the contact information, whether email or phone. Always be mindful that a message sent does not mean the message was received. Contact the preceptor via a different route than the initial contact. If still not successful in reaching the preceptor, contact the IPPE or APPE Director for assistance. 

Can students have jobs while on rotation?

Yes, but their employment schedule must not interfere with rotation hours that are set by the preceptor. The student’s primary job while in school is school itself; employment does not take priority over the rotation. Therefore, the student’s first obligation is to the rotation schedule and preceptor’s assignments. 

Can students be paid for rotation hours?

The student must not receive any remuneration from the practice site or preceptor to which he/she is assigned. Certain gratuities are acceptable, such as free or reduced-cost meals or housing at the site. 

What is the preceptor to do when the student is absent from the rotation?

Illnesses, employment, potential job or residency interviews, bereavement, inclement weather, family/personal events, traffic delays, failed alarms, or other absences or tardiness do not take priority over rotation assignments.  If the student is unable to attend required rotation hours and responsibilities because of such circumstances, the student must notify their preceptor immediately, or ahead of time when possible, and for each day they will be absent.  Time away from the rotation site for such circumstances must be made up in order to fulfill the course requirements and Board of Pharmacy licensure requirements.  (The Rotation Absence & Make-Up Time form is available in in CORE/RXpreceptor ( [log in] > Document Library).

In the event of inclement weather, the student must adhere to the instructions of the preceptor and site.  If the preceptor excuses the student due to weather conditions, the time missed should be made up before the end of the rotation. The decisions of VCU to close due to inclement weather do not apply to students on rotations.

What are pre-approved excused absences?

Time away from rotations for pre-approved excused absences does not have to be made up. Pre-approved excused absences are granted for three purposes only:

  1. Four (4) designated holidays: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day. The days preceding and following the holiday are regular rotation days. As will occur in practice as a pharmacist, the student may be asked to work on the actual holiday and be off on another day. (Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall during the winter break when no rotations are scheduled.)
  2. Attending the VCU SoP Employment/Residency Fair, in whole or in part.
  3. Attending a state, regional, or national meeting provided the student has approval in advance in writing from the Dean’s Office, for a specific number of days that may vary from student to student.

What happens if a student wants to attend a state or national professional meeting?

If the student wants to attend a professional state, regional, or national meeting, the student must first submit an Absence Record form to the Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services and secure prior approval of the absence according to guidance in the Student Handbook. Preceptors should be informed of their assigned students’ excused absences one month prior to rotations. The student will provide a copy of the approved absence form to the preceptor if requested. If the Associate Dean grants a pre-approved excused absence to the student, time away from rotations to attend professional meetings does not have to be made up.

How firm or flexible are the rotation hours and work assignments?

Both students and preceptors must be mindful at all times that the primary objective of experiential rotations is learning. Therefore, attendance is mandatory to fulfill the required number of hours for each IPPE and APPE rotation (and also fulfills the internship requirements of the Board of Pharmacy for pharmacists licensure). Daily work schedule times are site-dependent and determined by the preceptor. The student should follow the preceptor’s schedule as much as possible, with any deviations approved by the preceptor and with the student having an alternative supervisor during the preceptor’s absence. The student should be prepared to work on weekends and evenings if requested, as extended hours frequently occur in most practice sites; and as will occur in practice as a pharmacist, the student may be asked to work with the preceptor on a holiday and be off on another day. Preparation, homework, active participation, frequent communications, completion of assignments and duties, and evaluations are required if academic and licensure credit are to be received. Although not in a traditional classroom, homework may be assigned and must be completed on time. The hours should not exceed 50 hours in any week at the practice site. Time necessary to complete homework assignments outside of the practice site should not be included in the 40-50 hours per week rotation experience.

What items should be included in the orientation on the first day?

At the beginning of each rotation, the preceptor should provide an on-site orientation and present the student with a schedule, activities, and other site-specific documents pertinent to the rotation, and review of the syllabus and evaluations. If not provided, the student should prompt the preceptor for any available documents. Daily starting and stopping times are site-dependent, may include nights and/or weekends, and are determined by the preceptor. Students should examine the schedule and other documents and make sure they understand any special projects, reports, and evaluation procedures. In addition, a tour of the site and introductions to co-workers is desirable, along with a review of the student’s portfolio.

What do students know about HIPAA?

VCU students receive HIPAA training during their P1 year. Students must become familiar with their practice site’s HIPAA policies and requirements at the beginning of each rotation. All patient data reviewed or discussed during the rotation must be kept confidential. When discussing a patient outside of the immediate practice area, or with anyone not involved in the patients care (e.g., in public areas of the hospital, at case presentations, or professional meetings) the student must never reveal a patient name. Any breach of patient confidentiality, however minor, will result in dismissal from the site and failure of the rotation.

Do students have professional liability coverage?

Students are covered for professional liability by the self-insured risk management plan of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, students may individually carry professional liability insurance. 

Who is responsible for the student's medical expenses when on rotation?

All students must be covered by health insurance. Neither the school nor the site will be liable for any medical expenses incurred by any student participating in the program. The student must determine ahead of time if any of their rotation sites specifically require students to have their own individual health insurance coverage. If the site has provided this information to OEE, it is listed in CORE/RXpreceptor in the site description. Students assigned to the Inova campus during the P3 and P4 years are required by school policy to have personal health insurance to cover their medical needs.

What happens if the student is exposed to a blood-borne pathogen while on rotation?

The student must be familiar with the School’s Blood-borne Pathogen Exposure during Experiential Education policy and procedure in order to be prepared if and when such an event occurs. Students assigned to the Inova campus rotations during the P3 and P4 years must be familiar with the Inova Health System Exposures Control Plan. (See course/rotation syllabus for more information)

What should pregnant students be mindful of for rotations?

Students who are pregnant during their enrollment in the School of Pharmacy need to be aware of certain measures that are most important while on rotations. The student is responsible for updating their health record with the Student Health Center. Special considerations may need to be given in regard to the immunization policy and rotation assignments. These adjustments may be necessary to avoid high-risk clinical exposures and certain teratogenic drugs such as chemotherapy. The student shall notify the IPPE OR APPE Director and the preceptor, and make every attempt to ensure their own safety and the safety of their unborn child. Missed time due to pregnancy will be subject to established absence policies. 

What are the attributes of professionalism?

The School’s Attributes of Professionalism are expected of all students, faculty, and staff:

  1. Scholarship & Commitment to Excellence – Actively engaged; demonstrates strong work ethic; strives to exceed minimum requirements; punctual; prepared; conscientious; seeks additional knowledge and skills
  2. Accountability & Initiative – Accepts personal responsibility; demonstrates reliability and follow through with commitments in a timely manner; accountable for his/her performance; recognizes limitations and seeks help when necessary; addresses individuals who demonstrate unacceptable behaviors
  3. Self-Growth & Self-Care - Commits to life-long learning; seeks and applies feedback for improvement; sets and achieves realistic goals; maintains personal health and well-being; avoids harmful behaviors
  4. Responsibility & Sense of Duty - Contributes to the profession; provides service to the community; follows established policies
  5. Compassion & Respect for Others - Displays empathy; considerate; cooperative; sensitive; respectful of different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultural traditions; avoids promoting gossip and rumor; respects authority
  6. Integrity & Trustworthiness - Demonstrates high degree of integrity, truthfulness, and fairness; adheres to ethical standards; maintains confidentiality
  7. Teamwork & Professional Demeanor - Interacts effectively with others; listens and communicates effectively; willing to assist others; flexible; nonjudgmental; controls emotions appropriately; inspires trust; carries oneself with professional presence
  8. Concern for the Welfare of Patients - Treats patients and families with dignity; respects patient privacy, values and belief systems; advocates for patients; places patients’ needs above their own; promotes a culture of safety

What's appropriate and inappropriate use of technology by the student?

Appropriate use of technology during rotation hours includes use of computer resources or the student’s smart phone -- with preceptor’s prior knowledge and permission -- for rotation-related work, such as accessing drug information literature. Inappropriate use of technology during rotation hours -- such as personal use of cell phones for texting, calls, email, games, etc. or use of any devise for internet shopping, checking Facebook, etc.-- is not permitted. Further, inappropriate use of technology may result In Unacceptable scores on the Professionalism evaluation and dismissal from the rotation.

How are rotations evaluated?

Evaluations are completed in the CORE/RXpreceptor web-based system using a grading rubric that describes performance requirements. The preceptor’s final evaluation determines the student’s grade. In addition, the student completes self-evaluations for the purpose of self-reflection to identify areas for improvement. Both mid-point and final evaluations are conducted for 4- and 5-week courses/rotations. Final evaluations are conducted for 3-week courses/rotations. In addition to the student and preceptor discussing formal evaluations at scheduled times, the student should actively seek feedback from the preceptor throughout the rotation.

The competency grade and the professionalism grade are independent of each other and a grade of 2.5 or better is required in each to pass the rotation. The student is not to lobby the preceptor for a higher grade. Doing so may result in a reduction in the rating for Integrity and Trustworthiness and thereby affect the overall professionalism grade. Further, breach of patient or site confidentiality will result in dismissal from the site and failure of the rotation. 

At the end of each rotation, the student must complete the Rotation Evaluation and the Professionalism Evaluation of the Preceptor which are not shared with the preceptor until the end of the academic year and only in an anonymous, aggregate fashion. Both evaluations provide valuable feedback to the school. Evaluation forms may be viewed on this Experiential Education website under the IPPE and APPE tabs, and also on the user’s CORE/RXpreceptor home page.

When are grades posted?

Grades are posted in Banner at the end of the each semester after IPPE and APPE rotations are completed.

What happens if a student is unable to complete a rotation?

If for any reason a student cannot start a rotation, has to leave a rotation (e.g., illness, discipline problems, excessive absences) or fails a rotation, the student must make up the missed rotation. This make up rotation may or may not be scheduled within a short period of time and will depend on preceptor and site availability. In addition, making up the rotation may interfere with advancement to the next academic year or delay the student's graduation. Any actual or potential delay in graduation must be discussed with the Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services. APPE students must complete all eight (8) Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations within two (2) academic years, or risk being dismissed from the program.

How and when are rotation assignments made?

Rotation assignments are not based on the student’s home address. Instead, every effort is made to assign each student to one of their three preferred regions/zones within Virginia for their rotations, and subsequently assign each student to preceptor/faculty within those regions/zones for all or most of their required and elective rotations. Further, students are permitted to identify their preferred regions/zones each year. Students may need to travel up to 60 miles to rotation assignments within the student’s region/zone. In addition, students may wish to complete some rotations in other regions/zones of Virginia if sites/preceptors are available, and/or may select certain out-of-state practice sites/preceptors that are affiliated with VCUSOP. However, when there are an insufficient number of preceptors available in a region/zone (frequently Richmond) to fulfill preferences, each student must support the lottery process for region assignments. Preceptors and students are notified of rotation assignments at least two months prior to the start of rotations.

Can rotation assignments be changed?

Once student-preceptor assignments are announced, changes are made only in circumstances when the preceptor or site become unavailable or if there is a substantial problem that prevents the student from participating as scheduled. With preceptor-driven changes, OEE provides reassignment options to the student for review and identification of preferences. OEE then works in order of the student’s preferences to confirm preceptor availability and approval. 

When a student wants to change a rotation, the student must submit in writing a Rotation Change Request form describing the substantial problem that prevents the student from participating as scheduled. The request is subject to review and approval or denial by the OEE Committee. All decisions are final and all parties are notified as appropriate. 

Students are not to contact preceptors directly at an affiliated practice site to arrange or change a rotation. Due to the complexity of rotation assignments, all scheduling with affiliated sites and preceptors must be arranged through OEE.

Can students complete rotations out-of-state? Are there restrictions?

Some rotations may be completed out-of-state, and there are restrictions. All practice sites for experiential rotations must be affiliated with VCU, and all preceptors must have faculty appointments with VCU. Applications must be completed by both sites and preceptors, and approval may take several months to achieve after all the necessary documents are submitted. In addition, students who are interested in out-of- state rotations and/or plan to work out-of-state following graduation must investigate requirements of that state’s board of pharmacy for internship and licensure. More information is available from OEE.

How do I obtain access to VCU's online libraries and resources?

Privileges to use VCU Libraries and VCU School of Pharmacy (SOP) Resources are granted to officially appointed affiliate faculty preceptors who continue to be available to precept VCUSOP students and who obtain a VCU eID and password. A VCU eID is your identifier to authenticate your use of these VCU resources. To request a VCU eID, follow the navigation path from the School’s web site to Preceptors, and then select the "Library Privileges" tab. Follow the steps outlined in "Online Access". In order to access these VCU’s libraries and resources, you must always use your VCU eID and password, so keep this unique information handy for your easy reference. 

I've lost my online library access. How do I reestablish it?

Online library access will remain in effect continuously for preceptors who continue to be available to precept VCU SOP students. If the your access is interrupted, you will need your V Number (aka Banner ID), which is a unique VCU ID number that is assigned to preceptors during the process of obtaining initial library access. If you do not remember your V Number, you may contact OEE via email at or by phone at (804) 828-3005.