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Associate Professor Dean
Van Loo believes future
pharmacists can benefit from taking the DIRECT approach.
That’s why the Kalamazoo-based College of Pharmacy faculty
member started a patient-centered learning program for fourth-
year students that allows them to complete their six required
rotations in one place.
“I call it pre-residency,” Van Loo said.
The literal meaning of the DIRECT program? Developmental
Instruction Relationally Engaged with Clinical Teams.
In layman’s terms? Ten students working side-by-side at one
institution to gain the competency needed for success beyond
Pharmacy school.
That institution is Bronson Methodist Hospital, a key teaching
site for Ferris’ College of Pharmacy. The program redevelops
student clerkship activities to provide more opportunities for
projects and research in one location under one main preceptor
to facilitate growth. It also promotes teamwork and requires
only one orientation process, which allows students “to hit the
ground running,” Van Loo said.
Students work with multiple pharmacists in their fields of
expertise and become part of the hospital’s medical team.
They also have the chance to publish a research project and
volunteer for community outreach opportunities.
“The experience they get is valuable, because they are ready for
a post-graduate, broad-based residency,” Van Loo said.
Joleen Bierlein, who graduated in May 2013 after participating
in the DIRECT program, landed a PGY1 Pharmacy Practice
Residency for Carilion Clinic at Carilion Roanoke Memorial
Hospital in Roanoke, Va.
“I didn’t feel like just another Pharmacy student passing
through for a few weeks – I felt like another member of
the Bronson pharmacy team,” said Bierlein, who touted the
program’s elimination of multiple orientation processes.
“When I was on my institutional rotation, I spent a few days
with both the pharmacy technician and pharmacist in the
emergency department. When it came time for my emergency
department rotation at the end of the year, I already understood
how the pharmacy services in the ER operated, and I was able
to immediately begin doing medication reconciliations and
other activities. I was able to jump right into the rotation.”
Students are required to complete a research project, participate
in a Weekly Journal Club, make case presentations and attend
DIRECT meetings twice per rotation.
“The research opportunity is done in an area the student wants
to study,” Van Loo said. “It’s not high-level, informed-consent
research, but it gets them in the mode of doing research.
Residencies are competitive, and these experiences are valuable
and make them more marketable.”
And that was of particular interest to Bierlein.
“We all presented our projects as posters at the American
Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Midyear Clinical
Meeting, and it gave us great experience and, of course,
additions to our CVs,” she said. “As a resident, I have to
conduct research over the next year.  When my director was
discussing the deadlines and procedures, nothing came as
a surprise.  In residency, our cup overflows with projects,
presentations and various commitments. It means a lot to me
to know that I have the skills needed to take on these projects,
because my skills were tested as a student, and that’s one small
stressor that I can eliminate from my life as a resident.”
Van Loo acknowledges the program exposes students to just
one system and fewer preceptors, but believes the benefits
outweigh that. One of those benefits is stronger, more thorough
assessments and evaluations, he said.
That’s why fourth-year Pharmacy student Emily Kearney
sought a spot in the program.
“I applied because of its reputation and the opportunities that
would be available to me,” said Kearney, of Macomb, who also
DIRECT Program Pushes P4s to ‘Hit the Ground Running’
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