Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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An Exploration of an Integrated 5-year Pharmacy Programme: Integration, Communication and Learning

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posted on 2022-03-07, 14:48 authored by Aisling Kerr
Background Integrated undergraduate 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 the model i.e. 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. 47

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.


First Supervisor

Prof Judith Strawbridge

Second Supervisor

Prof Teresa Pawlikowska


Submitted for the Award of Doctor of Philosophy to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 2021.

Published Citation

Kerr A. An Exploration of an Integrated 5-year Pharmacy Programme: Integration, Communication and Learning [PhD Thesis] Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; 2021

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Date of award



  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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