Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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A scoping review of health professional curricula: Implications for developing integration in pharmacy

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-04-20, 09:23 authored by Aisling Kerr, Hannah O'Connor, Teresa PawlikowskaTeresa Pawlikowska, Paul Gallagher, Judith StrawbridgeJudith Strawbridge

Background: Integrated health professions curricula aim to produce graduates who are capable of meeting current and future healthcare needs. This is reflected in pharmacy education where integration is increasingly advocated by pharmacy regulators as the perceived optimal way of preparing students for registration as pharmacists. There is, however, no definition of integration. Integration can be described according to a model of horizontal, vertical or spiral integration. It can also be described by the themes used to integrate, such as a systems-based approach or by integrative teaching and learning approaches. The level of integration can also be described.

Objective: This scoping review aimed to explore health professions education literature to inform the optimal design of integrated pharmacy curricula. This review asks: what is meant by integration in health professions curricula?

Methods: The Arksey and O'Malley scoping review framework was utilised. Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, Web of Science and ERIC were searched. Models of integration, themes for integration, integrative teaching and learning approaches, and level of integration were defined and supported data extraction.

Results: There were 9696 records screened and of these 137 were included. The majority of studies (n = 88) described horizontal integration. Systems-based teaching (n = 56) was the most common theme reported. Various integrative teaching and learning approaches were described, including experiential (n = 43), case-based (n = 42) and problem-based (n = 38) learning. The majority of the curricula could be classified as levels 5-7 on Harden's ladder (n = 102). Perception outcomes were reported for 81 studies, and only 3 reported outcomes beyond perception. Reported outcomes were generally positive and included knowledge gains and increased motivation.

Conclusions: There is a need for integration to be explicitly defined by curriculum developers and researchers. Attention should be given to describing the model, theme, teaching and learning approach and level of integration. There remains a lack of evidence for integration.



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Published Citation

Kerr A, O'Connor H, Pawlikowska T, Gallagher P, Strawbridge J. A scoping review of health professional curricula: Implications for developing integration in pharmacy. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. 2020;16(1):1-16.

Publication Date

15 March 2019

PubMed ID



  • Health Professions Education Centre
  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences
  • Undergraduate Research

Research Area

  • Health Professions Education
  • Population Health and Health Services


Elsevier BV


  • Published Version (Version of Record)