Standardizing pharmacy curriculum

A new study highlights the need for national competency expectations for physical exam skills among United States pharmacy schools. The article was published in Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning and is entitled, “Physical Examination Instruction in US Pharmacy Curricula.”

This work was conducted by Drs. Mandy Jones, PharmD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Jeff Cain, EdD, MS, Associate Professor, and Frank Romanelli, PharmD, Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science in collaboration with Yevgeniya Gokun, MS from the College of Nursing at the University of Kentucky.

A survey was conducted of the chairpersons of Pharmacy Practice Departments or their equivalents in all 123 US pharmacy schools to determine the extent of physical exam instruction and evaluation included in their curricula. Fifty-six percent of schools responded to the survey. There was an equal representation of public and private schools as well as new and established schools.

At the time of the study, physical examination was the newest required curricular addition to national pharmacy school accreditation standards; however, the current standards do not provide competency expectations for this core component of patient assessment. Considering the evolving scope of practice, pharmacists have had to develop new skills traditionally performed by other members of the healthcare team, such as the physical examination (PE). The lack of national physical exam competency expectations is problematic because performing physical exam is not a traditional skill or function for pharmacy practice.

Thus, it was necessary to determine to what extent pharmacy schools are requiring students to master this skill in preparation for U.S. licensure, credentialing and practice. The study reports a high degree of variability in the scope and depth of physical examination instruction and evaluation among responding U.S. pharmacy schools.

These results highlight the need for the development of national competency expectations for physical exam skills. The development of national physical exam competencies for pharmacists will help educators to uniformly prepare students for future practice. Furthermore, consistency
between pharmacy schools in physical examination competencies will provide reliability with respect to the knowledge and skills pharmacists possess that support federal healthcare provider recognition and expanded scopes of practice in the pharmacy profession.

“The publication points to a wide range of expectation among schools of pharmacy regarding the development and implementation of physical exams as a component of pharmacy practice curriculum and to the application of physical findings to therapeutic decision making,” said Linda
Dwoskin, Associate Dean for Research.

Dwoskin continued, “This report is timely due to the perceived lack of training of pharmacy students regarding physical examination skills and given the current climate of healthcare reform and the advocacy for federal recognition of the increasing role that pharmacists play in direct patient care and as healthcare providers.”