The USC School of Pharmacy pioneered experiential learning for Doctor of Pharmacy students in the late 1960s and today remains an innovator in preparing students for pharmacy practice in a wide variety of settings.
Patient care experiences begin early, increasing in scope and complexity as students progress through the program. During the first three weeks of the curriculum, students receive intensive, hands-on training in immunization and screening tests for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. By the time they finish the PharmD program, students will have completed a minimum of 1,740 hours of experiential learning.
While specific placements are not guaranteed, students benefit from the School’s broad network of affiliates—some 300 sites with more than 400 volunteer faculty and preceptors, many of whom are alumni of the program. Students are provided many options for clinical site placements and are not required to relocate out of the Los Angeles area to complete the program.
The School’s location in Los Angeles provides far-ranging opportunities for practice in a variety of settings, with a wide range of disease states in an incredibly diverse patient population. Being on a major health sciences campus—the only private school of pharmacy in such a setting—offers students many other advantages, including four hospitals in close proximity as well as opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. The School owns and operates two community pharmacies, where students can gain additional experience.
Years 1-3 Clinical Training
During the first three years of the PharmD program, each student completes approximately 100 hours per year of experiential learning (IPPEs), including four weeks in a community pharmacy, four weeks in a hospital pharmacy and six to eight weeks performing sterile compounding in a hospital. The experiences during the first three years are conducted on a part-time basis and scheduled along with classroom-based courses.
Skills are further honed through frequent participation in local health fairs—one is held nearly every week throughout the year. At health fairs, students provide vaccinations, conduct a variety of health screenings and offer community health education under the supervision of faculty and alumni preceptors.
During the third year, after receiving their basic experiential training, students choose electives that further broaden their knowledge in an area of special relevance to their chosen career path.
USC Pharmacy also has a unique capstone course that officially marks the end of didactic training and assesses students’ practice skills in preparation for their final year in the program—which consists entirely of advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE).
Year 4 Clinical Rotations
The fourth year in the program is entirely experiential, with students completing six advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE) of six weeks each. Students have flexibility in scheduling their rotations, as eight different six-week blocks are available to choose from—two in the summer, and three in each semester during the regular academic year. This offers students the option of taking the summer or another period of time off.
Two of the six rotations will be in an ambulatory or outpatient environment and two will be in an acute care or hospital setting. Each student will be required to take two electives that may be in a variety of settings—including advanced patient care, the pharmaceutical industry or a non-traditional setting.
The required acute-care rotations are balanced to include both clinical and the systems of practice for the hospital setting. Students will be exposed to and participate in everything from preparing medication, dispensing and monitoring therapy to quality assurance and program development. The ambulatory rotations emphasize clinical practice (disease state management) and systems of care.
At USC Pharmacy, students in a community setting do more than medication counseling. Students will make therapeutic interventions, order labs, adjust drug therapy and manage medication therapies.
While specific placements cannot be guaranteed, students are offered a significant amount of choice in rotations based on their individual interests, with opportunities for placement at such wide-ranging locations as:
- the Food and Drug Administration
- corporate and industry settings
- the USC Health Sciences Campus hospitals (LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Hospital of USC, USC Norris Cancer Hospital)
- other Southern California hospitals, including the Veterans Administration Medical Centers (Los Angeles and Long Beach), Kaiser Permanente (numerous locations), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, etc.
- private physician offices, clinics, ACOs
- international rotations (including Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Denmark)