For the past 50 years, pharmacy education has been guided by the notion that students must first “learn pharmacy,” and then “practice pharmacy.” In more recent times, this “first learn—then do” approach has been giving way to the notion of “learning by doing.”


At the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, like most schools of pharmacy in the United States, students are expected to begin thinking and acting like a pharmacist from the very first day of their professional studies. With this approach, there is a constant interplay between theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. Experiential learning gives the student an opportunity to transfer information from didactic classes into practice settings. At the same time, students have an opportunity to generate insights and questions about pharmacy practice that they can take back to the classroom for discussion.


Experiential learning also provides students with a “hands-on” opportunity to learn how to be a pharmacist in a real, as opposed to simulated, practice setting. This is where students develop communication skills with patients and other medical professionals; where they learn how to provide pharmaceutical care in diverse settings; and where career choices are often confirmed or molded. Finally, it is an opportunity for the preceptor to give back to the profession by helping to prepare the practitioners of tomorrow.