Original Research

Development of a Virtual Pharmacy Resident Conference

A virtual conference for pharmacists and residents offered a cost-effective means to share research findings across facilities.

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The VHA is the nation’s largest provider of pharmacy residency programs offering > 150 programs.1 The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accreditation body for these pharmacy residency programs. One of the several ASHP residency standards is the presentation of a resident project at an annual conference.2,3 To meet the requirement, U.S. residency programs send pharmacy residents to regional conferences to present their projects.

Often only pharmacy residents and their project preceptors attend the regional conferences. Most pharmacists who work at each institution are not able to attend and do not have the opportunity to benefit from resident research directly related to the pharmacy profession and the facilities where the research is conducted.

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Reasons for not being able to attend these regional resident conferences include financial limitations as well as staffing and work requirements. The expenses associated with attending regional resident conferences include conference registration, transportation, lodging, meals, and other incidental expenses. These expenses could easily surpass several hundred dollars per attendee.

The requirements to obtain travel reimbursement for VHA employees to attend conferences for professional development have become increasingly more complex. This has presented the VHA with a unique challenge to provide its employees with professional development opportunities that do not require travel.

One option is to develop virtual learning environments, which eliminate the need for travel and conference-related expenses. Virtual learning has been a successful and convenient platform for professional development and has recently emerged within the pharmacy profession.4 In 2012, the American College of Clinical Pharmacy hosted its first Virtual Poster Symposium, which allowed participants to visit posters and interact with presenters online.5 At the VHA, pharmacists also have the opportunity to deliver and attend virtual presentations through the VA Learning University system.

To provide increased exposure and understanding to pharmacy resident research within the limitations of the VHA employee travel reimbursement system, a virtual pharmacy resident conference was developed. This article describes the steps taken to develop a conference and its impact on the pharmacists and pharmacy residents of VISN 11.


Planning for the VISN 11 Virtual Pharmacy Resident Conference started in June 2013 during the annual call for education programming from the VHA Employee Education System (EES). A proposal for the virtual conference, explaining its purpose and structure, was submitted to EES at that time, and approval was granted in August 2013.

Planning Process

Once approved, an EES representative provided guidance through the planning process and serve as a liaison between the planning committee and the desired educational accreditation body, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). For any educational program receiving continuing education (CE) credit from ACPE, an ACPE Planning Committee must be formed that includes a licensed pharmacist.6

The ACPE credit approval process then requires a needs assessment. The needs assessment identified a current gap within the profession and highlighted how the proposed education programming filled this gap. For the VISN 11 Virtual Pharmacy Resident Conference, the needs assessment included the challenges surrounding professional travel reimbursement and the missed learning opportunity for VA pharmacists who were not able to learn from resident research projects. Developing a virtual conference was proposed to fill this gap; pharmacists within the VISN could attend presentations from their workstations in order to stay abreast of pharmacy resident projects while gaining required CE hours for license renewal.

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After the needs assessment was approved, a brochure and a content alignment worksheet was developed. The brochure identified the date and time of the conference, the target audience, and included a statement of purpose. The content alignment worksheet listed the program (presentation) title, the faculty delivering the presentation, and objectives. The completed brochure and content alignment worksheet was submitted to ACPE for credit hours approval. In the VHA, it is a VHA employee who coordinates ACPE activities for the entire health system.

Gaining Support

Another important step was to gain the support of VHA pharmacy leadership. In September 2013, an informational meeting was held to discuss the proposal and request feedback from the pharmacy chiefs, supervisors, and residency program directors at each facility within VISN 11. Following this meeting, each facility was given 1 month to determine whether the pharmacy residents at each respective facility would participate in the virtual conference. Once the planning committee had a final list of participating residents, an official announcement of the virtual conference was made to the pharmacy residents, chiefs of pharmacy, supervisors, and residency pharmacy directors.


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