University of Wisconsin-Madison pharmacy student Chelsea Moyer was fascinated with a career as a pharmacist when she first started working in health care. Now in her fourth year as a pharmacy student at UW-Madison, she is thankful to Tomah Health for gaining some vital hands-on experience through a partnership with the UW School of Pharmacy and its Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) Program.
“I’ve really enjoyed working in a rural health care setting like Tomah Health where you can have more of a hands-on approach in the care for the patients,” said Moyer who just wrapped up her sixth week of the program. “You play a lot of different roles; you’re not focused on just one thing so you can really be comprehensive in the care for the patients.”
In May 2018, the UW School of Pharmacy began the APPEs program to introduce students to rural practices at facilities like Tomah Health where they can gain experience in the role of a pharmacist under the supervision of a pharmacist preceptor. Under the program, students are required to actively provide care for patients, assess medication systems, teach health and wellness, engage with patients and providers, practice professionalism and explore pharmacy practice options. “You get to do a lot of medication history where you talk to the patients, go over their medications to make sure those ordered in the hospital match up with what they are taking at home,” explained Moyer. “You really work comprehensively with the hospital team and get to talk with physicians, nurses to make sure everything is going well with the patients.”
As a UW School of Pharmacy alumnus, Tomah Health pharmacy director Todd Chapman, PharmD, RPH (2004) said the hospital is one of a handful of health care facilities in Wisconsin that provide the APPEs rural track rotation. “The UW greatly appreciates our participation in the program,” said Chapman. “They chose us and we work very closely with them. They also love having their students come to Tomah Health.”
Chapman said the program not only helps develop students’ skills to provide pharmaceutical care to a variety of patients, but also helps with a shortage of pharmacists across the state, including rural areas. “Rural pharmacy is quite a bit different from a pharmacy practice in a bigger city or larger hospital,” said Chapman. “We have been lucky at Tomah Health with consistent employment, however I think the biggest reason for the difficulty in some rural settings is that we are seeing more specialization of pharmacists with students doing residencies and specializing in specific areas where in rural settings they specialize in everything.”
Tomah Health has had 15 students take part in the APPEs program. “We love having the students here. They bring some excitement to the pharmacy, along with new ways of thinking about our department,” said Chapman. “Chelsea has been great and been one of our best students in the program. She has done a lot of projects, including one for nursing education. She’s been a joy and we will miss her.”
Moyer said she too will miss Tomah Health. “I really enjoyed the connections that I made while I was here. You could really see the impact that you were having on the patients’ care. You really got to know the patients and were able to follow their care. I really appreciated the opportunity to work so closely with the providers, the nurses and get to know the patients as well.”
Having grown up in Green Bay, Moyer said she appreciates Wisconsin’s rural life. “I definitely do like rural living and the community that you can build and those connections that you can have; so ultimately I do see myself living in a rural setting.” Moyer said she is currently pursuing a residency for Health System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership and hopes to stay in the Midwest.
For students considering a career in pharmacy, Moyer said it is important to look at the big picture. “Keep an open mind because everything happens for a reason. If you can get involved and see different areas of pharmacy –whether job shadowing, volunteering or working in a pharmacy – whatever experiences that you can get will benefit you. There’s always going to be a need for pharmacists, so it’s always going to be a great career to go into to.”