Training the next generation of pharmacists

Like many institutions, Colleges of Pharmacy are constantly adapting their curriculum to meet the changing needs and demands of the industry. As the healthcare landscape continues to change, the role of the pharmacist continues to evolve. Colleges are working to stay ahead of this change in order to help train professionals, so they can succeed in their careers.

Medical News recently talked with Cindy Stowe, dean of the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy; Misty Stutz, PharmD, associate professor, chair and assistant dean, Clinical and Administrative Sciences at Sullivan University College of Pharmacy; and Patricia Freeman, PhD, director of the Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Practice (CAPP) at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. Below are the highlights.

Medical News:: How does education training for pharmacists differ from other healthcare professions?

Colleges of Pharmacy: At the core of the education of pharmacists is a clear focus on the foundational biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, which allow pharmacists to understand the principles of disease prevention and treatment, with an emphasis on pharmacology or the action of drugs in the human body as well as the non-pharmacologic interventions that support prevention and treatment.

In addition, pharmacists must be excellent listeners and problem solvers. Communication is an area of focus as pharmacists are well-equipped to provide education to a wide audience, including experts such as other healthcare providers as well as patients and their caregivers across the age spectrum.

Problem-solving skills with the patient at the center of the decision making process is critical. This emphasizes adherence interventions and motivational interviewing techniques to change behaviors towards healthy living. The curriculum is dedicated to ensuring that students pharmacists acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to be a successful pharmacist.

Also, student pharmacists receive formal education about the healthcare system and various business aspects of the healthcare industry. These educational elements include pharmacoeconomics,
medication safety, work flow efficiencies, management and leadership skill development and human resource management. These are common elements to all colleges and schools of pharmacy which are not explicitly included in other healthcare professionals’ education.

MN: How do pharmacy schools develop curriculum to train the next generation of pharmacists?

CP: Colleges and schools of pharmacy are constantly focused on the future–striving to advance practice and deliver a contemporary curriculum that allows students to enter the profession, not only well prepared for today’s practice but also ready for the challenges of tomorrow, as our profession evolves and advances.

Curricula are based on pedagogically proven methods of teaching and learning that prepare future generations of pharmacists to meet the demands of a rapidly changing healthcare system.  The goal of pharmacy education is to produce pharmacists who can enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career in one of the many, diverse practice opportunities available within the profession.

At present, educational advancements within pharmacy education are focused on adding greater emphasis on information management, team-based patient centered care, innovative problem-solving, preventive and wellness care delivery, and population health. A part of this challenge is to identify the best candidates to become pharmacists of the future. Future pharmacists must be service oriented with a passion for primary and secondary disease prevention and wellness.

MN: How is the practice of pharmacy changing?

CP: The practice is moving more towards a healthcare service-based practice both connected to and separate from the product that has historically defined the profession. The pharmacy houses the most accessible and arguably the most underutilized member of the healthcare team. The emphasis on pharmacists as care providers allows for the evolution of the pharmacist as a provider of  primary prevention and health maintenance services as a member of the healthcare team.

An early example of this is pharmacist-provided immunizations. The pharmacists’ role in secondary prevention will continue to evolve as the impact they make in optimizing care, be that through the provision of medication therapy management services, disease management services or case management, becomes ever more apparent. As they fulfill these roles, pharmacists will become integral in the patient-centered medical home.

The gap between community pharmacies and ambulatory care settings is narrowing as pharmacies become centers of health and wellness management by providing self-care, point-of-care testing, health tracking with wearables, etc. Electronic medical records to better connect pharmacists to the rest of the healthcare team is critical. The role of the pharmacist in this process depends on  changing reimbursement models allowing pharmacists to be paid for interventions and services leading to primary disease prevention and enhanced chronic care (secondary prevention) outcomes.

Community pharmacists must leverage their unparalleled accessibility with the support of technology and advancement of the roles of pharmacy technicians to ensure the consistent provision of these important services.

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