Provide mentoring and support throughout staff work experience

Hospital makes programs mandatory

Hospital pharmacies can enhance staff's satisfaction and improve their knowledge base by providing mentoring and professional development activities throughout their career progression.

While many health care systems have residency and internship programs for pharmacy students, they also should consider ongoing training and mentoring for their staff, says Nannette M. Berensen, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, director of pharmacy services for Intermountain Medical Center of Murray, UT.

Berensen, whose background includes teaching pharmacy college students, has assisted Intermountain Medical Center with developing a preceptor program and a continuing professional development program.

"When I joined Intermountain, I interviewed all the pharmacists and said, 'There's a huge need for precepting and mentoring future practitioners,' and 'What are your barriers to doing this? Why haven't you been involved?'" Berensen says.

She readily identified these needs: They wanted more experience with structuring learning experiences, and they wanted to network with other preceptors.

"The pharmacists needed to share information with other preceptors, cultivate ideas, and incorporate them," Berensen says.

So in January, 2009, Berensen started a program to help pharmacists develop the skills they'd need to serve as preceptors for students.

Pharmacists attend monthly preceptor workshops. These involve about 25 pharmacists and take about an hour each month.

"Originally, the content was developed in a workshop format with a significant amount of dialogue and sharing between practitioners," Berensen says. "Initially, preceptors were invited to submit topics they thought were most beneficial."

The topics included:

  • Helping learners achieve independence;
  • Using and evaluating case presentations;
  • Tailoring rotations to best suit personality types;
  • The benefits of mentoring relationships.

The session on personality types was based on a book, titled, Insight Personality Instrument, that one of the pharmacists had read, Berensen notes.

"The point is that we have different learners at different stages and interests and personalities," she explains. "And what resonates with them will be different based on personality differences."

The preceptor workshops have accomplished the goal of increasing the number of pharmacists who serve as preceptors and have enabled the medical center's internships and residency rotations to grow.

For instance, in 2007, the medical center offered 42 rotations; in 2008, this increased to 114 rotations; in 2009, there were 189 rotations, and this year there will be 215 rotations, Berensen says.

"We also observed the workshops' effect on promoting comradery between preceptors," she adds. "Some have adopted new practices and innovations stemming from workshops."

The medical center also has implemented a comprehensive pharmacy professional development program.

"Its goal is to elevate the level of pharmacy practice and also increase employee satisfaction and retention," Berensen says.

"These are all interconnected," she adds. "If you have a really well-developed staff then you have a rich learning environment for students and interns."

The development program involves weekly meetings for pharmacists and bi-weekly meetings for pharmacy technicians.

The medical center's pharmacy technicians and 67 pharmacists are required to attend at least 65% of the sessions, which are repeated for two meetings in a row. This way, staff that is on a 7-on-7-off schedule will not have to miss a meeting.

"We typically have between 25 and 30 people at each presentation," Berensen says.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are invited to speak at the sessions about their particular areas of expertise.

"The speakers all come from within the department," Berensen says. "This is a tremendous tool in terms of building comradery, harvesting intellectual capital, and sharing practice innovations."

Each year, pharmacy leaders conduct a formal assessment of what the staff's learning needs are and which items are a top priority, she notes.

"We look for common themes, the greatest demands, and we try to adjust it based on a priority of need," Berensen says.

Here are some of the pharmacist sessions that were held in the past year:

  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement;
  • Renal replacement modalities;
  • Pleiotropic effects of statins;
  • Innovations in clinical pharmacy practice;
  • Reimbursement for cognitive pharmacy services;
  • Review of immunosuppression;
  • DVT prophylaxis and treatment;
  • Hypertension management in special populations;
  • Principles of medication safety.

"We have 26 new topics each year for pharmacists, and the presentations are 50 minutes long, leaving 10 minutes for questions and answers," Berensen says.

As an additional incentive for attending the presentations, the hospital offers continuing education credits that can be used toward pharmacists' licensing renewal.

The program works in a similar way for pharmacy technicians, although the sessions are held every other week, and there is a new topic each month. Also, about 80% of the technician presentations are done by pharmacists, with technicians covering the remaining 20%.

Some of the topics presented to pharmacy technicians were as follows:

  • USP 797 update;
  • Medication reconciliation;
  • Automated dispensing cabinet troubleshooting;
  • Calculations;
  • Using drug information references;
  • Diversion avoidance;
  • Effective communication;
  • Leadership principles;
  • Medication error reduction strategies;
  • Compounding essentials;
  • Teamwork.

A survey showed positive feelings toward the program among both pharmacists and technicians.

About half the attendees responded to the survey, and among them 82.6% said the professional development program had positively affected their practice, Berensen says.

All but 4.3% of respondents had rated the program as valuable, and 24.6% said it was extremely valuable, she adds.

Perhaps most telling, 63.2% of respondents said the professional development program was a factor in their continued employment, Berensen says.

"And then we asked whether the IMC professional development program facilitated department unity and comradery, and of the 70 respondents, 50.7% said 'Yes,'" she says.