Pharmacy practice

Joy Spark examines developments in pharmacy education.

Our innovative course - now in its sixteenth year - ensures that graduates acquire the necessary competencies to achieve a high standard of pharmacy practice in an evolving health care system, and to make a positive contribution to the health of the community.

Pharmacy education used to be all about drugs. Medicinal chemistry (chemical basis of drug action), pharmacology (how drugs work) and pharmaceutics (manufacture of medicines) were viewed as the three pillars of pharmacy education. In more recent times this 'all about drugs' focus has shifted in favour of how pharmacists can deliver the best therapeutic outcomes for patients. 

Pharmacy courses still maintain a strong foundation in the enabling sciences, and a scientific understanding of drug action is recognised as an essential prerequisite for therapeutics and pharmaceutical care. But oral and written communication skills, counselling and understanding people are now all important parts of a pharmacy education. Pharmacists, therefore, are science enabled health professionals who have a focus on people.

Introducing subjects with a life-skill component is tricky in any course. In Pharmacy, students tend to think that anything not directly related to drug research is irrelevant. To overcome this preconception, students are shown how the content relates to the competency standards for pharmacists. In other subjects, drug related examples are used.

One of the requirements for accreditation of pharmacy programs is pharmacy related research. Pharmacy practice research often uses the methodologies of social scientists that are largely unfamiliar to scientists. 

People focused research rather than chemical or product focused research has different requirements, strengths and weaknesses. It addresses different questions about perceptions and experiences that can be undervalued by product focused researchers. Understanding the balance of the perceived risks and benefits of a medication from the user's perspective enables strategies to be developed to improve medication outcomes for people.

Joy Spark is a lecturer in Pharmacy and Applied Science.

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