Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ups and Downs of Writing CE

I’m nearing the end of my rotation at rxBriefCase and it has been an eye-opening experience. Unsure of what to expect, I was surprised by the opportunities I received. As a science student, I never thought that I would write an eNewsletter, a patient module for medSchool For You (MSFY), and a blog - all within 5 weeks!

On my first day, my preceptors presented a task itinerary to help me stay on track. To be honest, as I flipped through the pages, I asked myself “why would this take 5 weeks?”.
It wasn't too long before it all made sense.  I clearly underestimated the amount of work it takes to successfully produce and present Continuing Education (CE) online.

As a result, it seems only fitting to describe my experiences writing these CE pieces. It was nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions. 

Emotion #1 - Excited: Yay! This will be fun!

As I read the descriptions of eNewsletter and MSFY in my task itinerary, I started to feel that "good kind" of nervousness. I looked forward to a change in work environment and style. I was excited to try something completely outside my comfort zone. 

Emotion # 2 - Afraid: What will I write about? How will I make this interesting?

During my first week, the search for an original and interesting topic became more and more difficult. My excitement started to fade and a fear of landing on a boring topic (or worse, no topic at all!) began sinking in. I wanted to write about a topic that could be covered within a limited word count yet keep the reader engaged. Most importantly, I wanted to talk about something that needed clarity, needed a bottom line.  

Emotion # 3 - Frustrated: Why can’t I find what I want! Where is all the reliable info?!

After discussion with my rotation mentor, I chose a topic. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I started searching for reliable sources of information. Since I was writing about a topic that was lacking universality and up-to-date clinical information, there was no single source that I could rely on to create my eNewsletter or MSFY program. This challenge was the most frustrating part of the process. 

Emotion # 4 - Anxious: Am I off-topic? Have I gone on a tangent?

Before I knew it, I was writing, and writing, and writing. As I found more and more articles, I had more and more ideas to incorporate in my eNewsletter and MSFY program. But as the number of pages grew, I realized that I may have steered away from the main topic. I was fortunate to have to an experienced writer to remind me of my original topic and guide my writing in the right direction. Working with a team definitely decreased the level of anxiety and stress.

Emotion # 5 - Eager: I’m almost done this draft! Eek!

At this point of the ride, I was happy with the content. I channeled my energy into focusing on how this content would be delivered. How would my peers want to read the material? When they scrolled down the article, what would they look for? 

Emotion # 6 - Overwhelmed: Delete this, add that, fix this, change that. It’s going to be a late night…

I received a revised version of my first draft and all I could think was "That is a lot of red ink." But, it was all constructive and very helpful feedback. That initial overwhelming feeling lessened and I became determined to make every draft better than last. 

Emotion # 7 - Joy: It’s ready for submission!!!

Finally, after multiple drafts, I clicked the "send" button and submitted my piece to the rxBriefCase team. 

Emotion # 8 - Relieved: It's out of my hands. It will go live.

This is self-explanatory.

Emotion # 9 - Proud: That’s MY piece online!  

It was a like a flashback to the pride I felt as a little kid when my artwork or well-written tests would be displayed on the kitchen fridge. I learned a lot from this experience and gained an appreciation for every person involved in producing CE. 

And, as cliche as "practice makes perfect" sounds, it is how I feel about writing CE pieces. Hopefully I receive an opportunity to write again, though it will hopefully be a smoother ride. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Keeping Up-to-Date

As a pharmacy student, I am continuously learning the art of educating patients about their medications, their medical conditions, and living a healthier lifestyle. And, of course, it won’t stop when I become a pharmacist. This is a concept that I have quickly discovered at rxBriefCase.

The key to being an effective member in providing patient care is to stay up-to-date, whether it is with the help of continuing education, discussion forums, or pharmaceutical updates.

As I approach the end of my second week at rxBriefCase, I have gained an appreciation for the different avenues of accredited information available to stay up-to-date. Now, there is tremendous accessibility to programs, certification courses, and notices.

Continuing Education

Online Programs

Continuing education has been the “traditional” method of staying up-to-date. It is an integral component to advancing pharmacy practice, and being an effective member in patient care.  However, when we think of live presentations, educational seminars, or didactic courses, there are challenges like time commitment and level of interest.

In response to these challenges, many CE sites provide online programs on specific topics that only require 1-3 hours of your time. Conversely, there are programs that can take 1-3 days. Fortunately, these are individualized programs that can be saved as you go, so you are able to work at your own pace.  In addition, most of the programs include short summaries, videos, interactive questionnaires, discussion forums, and practice cases that keep the participant engaged and interested in the material. There are a variety of topics to choose from. 

While at rxBriefCase, I have completed programs on topics that I otherwise wouldn't be too excited to complete, especially if they were in the form of a 200-page guideline. The information was to the point, practical, and up-to-date. And, I knew that the material was valid because it was accredited by the Canadian Council on Continuing Education in Pharmacy (CCCEP).

Certification Courses

There are also more in-depth courses that help prepare for competency exams. Courses which cover topics such as Immunization Competencies, Diabetes Education, or Smoking Cessation that can be found on sites such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Advancing Practice. Although this form of continuing education requires more commitment, it is definitely a way to stay up-to-date in the pharmacist’s scope of practice.

Not-so-traditional ways to stay informed

Discussion Portals

Health care professional discussion portals or forums can be a helpful outlet to learn and exercise your knowledge of a topic with your peers.  Monitored sites, like DiabetesExchange, are a source to ask questions, discuss change in guidelines, and update your knowledge on various topics.

Pharmaceutical Notification Sources

After years of faxed notifications from pharmaceutical companies, there is a more convenient method to learn about new products, recalls, and formulary changes.  Instead of faxes and face-to-face interactions with representatives, there are online sources that will notify you via email or on their site so you are aware of any changes in the pharmaceutical industry. 

For example, there are sites such as PharmacyNow and RxNow that allow you to search their archive of updates at your convenience versus waiting on a fax or searching the internet for a reliable answer.  Although these online resources are reliable and helpful, there is room for improvement in the format to make them more user-friendly. Regardless, there are options to stay up-to-date efficiently.

These avenues may not be not be classified as “traditional” continuing education, but in order to stay up-to-date in all aspects of pharmacy, whether that be counselling, dispensing, or expanded scope of practice, we need to rely on multiple reliable sources of information.

The perfect fit for you!

The information sources I have mentioned are unique and highly applicable in pharmacy practice, but there are many more sources available that provide similar information in different formats and on different platforms to different healthcare professionals. Ultimately, the purpose is to apply the most current information to the care we provide. Therefore, it is just a matter of figuring out the perfect fit you. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Who's the new student at rxBriefCase?

Hi everyone!

My name is Vaneet Gill and I am a 4th year PharmD student at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan faculty of Pharmacy. I just started my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation here at rxBriefCase.

I have been lucky enough to gain community experience in pharmacies with a great work environment, and amazing staff and preceptors. And while I’ve loved my four years working in community pharmacy, I welcome the chance to experience new environments.

My therapeutic interests include cardiology, mental health, and nephrology. My hospital rotations conveniently focus on the latter two, so it will be interesting! 

During the next 5 weeks, I will learn more about CE, work on a newsletter and patient education programs for

Feel free to send me comments and suggestions.

Stay tuned for blog posts about my experiences at rxBriefCase and pharmacy in general!