Research in pharmacy education - lessons from programme design and development at a new School of Pharmacy
Pharmacy education is an evolving field, influenced by a complex relationship between National, European and International policies, regulation and practice. The opening of a new School of Pharmacy, at a time of great change, provided the context for the research question:
How is pharmacy education, delivered by a new School of Pharmacy, with new undergraduate and postgraduate curricula, novel teaching and assessment strategies, reflected in student perception, performance and preparedness for professional practice, and what are the lessons for educators?
The thesis addresses three major areas; interprofessional education, competency assessment and evaluation. Quantitative methods, including the use of validated tools (Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale, Attitudes to Health Professionals Questionnaire, Course Experience Questionnaire), and relevant research ("MPharm: Where are we now" and the "Pharmacy Education and Accreditation Reviews" reports) were employed. Analysis of examination results and tracking of student progress was also undertaken.
An unexpected finding was that early interprofessional education was less successful than anticipated. Views on professional identity and stereotypes influenced a desire for uniprofessional education. However, online interprofessional education can facilitate learning of large groups of geographically dispersed professionals and may offer potential for postgraduate interprofessional education.
The research highlights the value of the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) for assessing competency in pharmacy, but emphasises the importance of embedding quality assurance into the design and delivery with due regard for validity and reliability. The research indicates that it is helpful to reflect on the outcomes to determine if assessment policies are robust and credible.
Evaluation strategies are important in the development of new programmes. The introduction of the National Pharmacy Internship Programme provided a unique and previously unexplored opportunity to move beyond student perception, evaluate outcomes at entry-to-practice and benchmark the quality of education.
Some additional significant findings emerge from tracking student progress. There is no evidence that a lack of advanced second-level science education has a deleterious effect on performance. Graduate students perform better than school leavers, despite having significantly lower points on entry. their merit in considering a graudate entry programme, although it is not the currently proprosed strategy for pharmacy education in Ireland.
Pharmacy education, delivered by a new School of Pharmacy using novel and outcomes focused teaching and assessment strategies was reflected well in student perception, performance and preparedness for practice. The research is timely and important as Ireland moves towards the development of a new five-year integrated programme where the students are prepared to directly enter professional practice.