It is clear there is not enough exposure to real-life scenarios during trainee pharmacists’ academic years, says Fawzia Lokat…
The General Pharmaceutical Council’s consultation on the initial education and training standards focused its learning outcomes on four themes; person-centred care, professionalism, professional knowledge and skills and collaboration.
These themes demonstrate a high-level understanding of what pharmacists should be ascribing to. It is worth noting that this is not vastly dissimilar from what we knew and what we know today.
Firstly, from our experiences and from the conversations we have had with our students, it is apparent there is not enough exposure to real-life scenarios during their academic years.
Therefore, enabling students to have more ‘exposure to an appropriate breadth of patients and people in a range of environments (real and simulated)’ is imperative.
We believe the objective structured clinical examination scenarios are extremely beneficial and there should be an increase in the number of these as they provide reality for students, helping them build resilience for real-life scenarios they will encounter.
Nonetheless, the best experiences are those that are obtained during work experience opportunities.
Cross-sector work placements enable pharmacy students to experience different work environments and the challenges, skills, roles, responsibilities and tools relevant to pharmacists on a daily basis.
Consequently, the frequency of these should be increased, alongside the length of the time spent during the ‘experience.’
One week in one location does not provide sufficient experience as it does not allow for appropriate follow-up time and time to be a part of a patient’s entire journey. As a result, the 26 weeks of learning in practice required to be patient-facing seems sufficient.
Secondly, we support the statement ‘admissions and selection processes must include an interactive component to assess applicants’ values and professional suitability.’
Communication is an immensely vital skill for a pharmacist to have and often this cannot be determined from reading a personal statement that an individual has written.
Consumers rely on their past experiences and personal networks to make their healthcare decisions and are most likely to visit a pharmacist as their first port of call only once trust has been established.
With an aim to reduce the pressures that the healthcare industry faces today, and the multi-disciplinary approach that we are trying to get to, our consumers need to have confidence in their pharmacists to help meet their healthcare needs.
Consequently, it seems appropriate that students are prepared to be interactive from the initial admissions process, as this will enable students to already build their foundational communication skills.
Thirdly, as the population becomes more diverse, there will be an increase in consumers relying on how well healthcare professionals can understand and address the needs of this diverse population.
It is apparent that different populations have different outcomes and diverse populations are not homogeneous.
Therefore, having a focus on diversity is essential as we need to be able to not only meet the needs of the consumer, but also have respect and an understanding of their beliefs.
In addition to this, we are moving from volume of prescriptions to delivering value and this involves making the healthcare industry accountable for health outcomes. As a result, a shift in demographics means a shift in the diverse population whose health we are accountable for.
As pharmacists, we are responsible for the health of everyone as well as responsible for the prevention of diseases on an individual basis.
If we are unable to meet these expectations from the start, we as pharmacists will not be prepared to serve what is a growing, diverse population.
Finally, the collaboration standard that is linked to effective leadership and partnership working is one that has not been emphasised enough in the previous standards.
In term of the pressures weighing down on the healthcare system, working in partnership with all providers is paramount. Working collectively as a team and taking a multi-disciplinary approach is vital in meeting people’s healthcare needs.
To achieve this, pharmacists need to be able to work effectively in teams. The former initial education and training pharmacists received failed to acknowledge and emphasise the importance of developing leadership skills and collaborative working.
Team PreReg has been working closely with pre-registration students for five years and we have been able to identify the challenges in the training currently being provided.
We have been able to empower students to not only effectively answer examination questions but also better handle difficult situations in the workforce, enhance communication and leadership skills and use professional judgment.
Every year we host crash courses that focus on clinical cases and scenarios, calculations, over-the-counter medications and law and ethics. This has enabled pre-registration pharmacists to work in a collaborative manner.
In addition, we take into account diverse learning needs and pre-registration students have the opportunity to take online courses.
A new weekly quiz has allowed for continuous education throughout their pre-registration year as opposed to giving them learning material all in one go.
Free webinars are hosted on a monthly to bi-monthly basis that cover specific topics and provide pre-registration students with the opportunity to ask questions and we leverage social media to reach out to all students so they can access learning resources.
Fawzia Lokat is managing director of Team PreReg
Picture: Tom Merton (iStock)