Creating a new rural pharmacy workforce: Development and implementation of the Rural Pharmacy Health Initiative

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Abstract

Purpose.

An innovative certificate program aimed at expanding the rural pharmacy workforce, increasing the number of pharmacists with expertise in rural practice, and improving healthcare outcomes in rural North Carolina is described.

Summary.

Predicted shortages of primary care physicians and closures of critical access hospitals are expected to worsen existing health disparities. Experiential education in schools and colleges of pharmacy primarily takes place in academic medical centers and, unlike experiential education in medical schools, rarely emphasizes the provision of patient care in rural U.S. communities, where chronic diseases are prevalent and many residents struggle with poverty and poor access to healthcare. To help address these issues, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy developed the 3-year Rural Pharmacy Health Certificate program. The program curriculum includes 4 seminar courses, interprofessional education and interaction with medical students, embedding of each pharmacy student into a specific rural community for the duration of training, longitudinal ambulatory care practice experiences, community engagement initiatives, leadership training, development and implementation of a population health project, and 5 pharmacy practice experiences in rural settings.

Conclusion.

The Rural Pharmacy Health Certificate program at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy seeks to transform rural pharmacy practice by creating a pipeline of rural pharmacy leaders and teaching a unique skillset that will be beneficial to healthcare systems, communities, and patients.

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