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February 5, 2004


Significant changes to
pharmacy program

Linda Hensman
Pharmacy Director Linda Hensman said students will continue to get extensive practice experience under a new program.
By Sharon Gray
Senate has approved a new undergraduate program for the School of Pharmacy program based on a framework of one pre-pharmacy year and four pharmacy years (1+4 program). Currently, the School of Pharmacy requires two pre-admission years and three pharmacy years (referred to as the 2+3 program). The last class to be admitted to the 2+3 program will be in September 2004 and the first class to be admitted to the 1+4 program will also be in September 2004 – the deadline for admission to either program is March 1, 2004. Both classes will be reduced to just 20 students, half the normal class size, in order to avoid a year with no pharmacy graduates.

At November’s Senate meeting, Dr. Evan Simpson pointed out that in developing the new program, the School of Pharmacy had recognized that the old program was out of date and that there were accreditation issues. The School of Pharmacy took the advice of the external accreditation team and the university’s academic program review process internally, which confirmed the issues identified by the accreditation team.

Dr. Linda Hensman, director of the School of Pharmacy, said the new program incorporates dramatic changes in the area of therapeutics, patient care, pharmacy research and evaluation and pharmacy practice skills development. “Our curriculum was never developed to meet the educational outcomes as identified by the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada. While we were graduating students capable of practising within the current environment, we weren’t proving that they were meeting the educational outcomes required of pharmacy graduates. We used the outcomes to guide us through the curriculum planning process.”

Dr. Hensman said this process was done by the faculty with the assistance of a consultant. “We identified the knowledge, skills and attitudes that would be required of a graduate to meet the educational outcomes and to practise in today’s environment.” Based on this, the appropriate content, teaching and evaluation methodologies and sequencing of courses starting with the basic biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, then moving into the areas of therapeutics, patient care and social/administrative pharmacy were identified.

In developing the new curriculum, Dr. Hensman said an evaluation of the courses required for the current B.Sc. (Pharm) degree revealed some weren’t contributing significantly to the outcomes the School of Pharmacy wanted to achieve. As a result some courses have been reduced in number. For example, there is now one biochemistry course in nutrition rather than two, one organic chemistry course rather than two. Other courses were moved in the curriculum while some others were eliminated and replaced with courses specific to pharmacy: “We realized that students were taking statistics for health sciences far too early in their curriculum – by the time they needed to apply this information they’d really forgotten a lot of the material. We now have biostatistics incorporated into the course where critical appraisal and research design are taught.”

The new 1 + 4 curriculum is in line with the standard of pharmacy schools in Canada. For Memorial it will mean additional resources in terms of teaching personnel, but Dr. Hensman is satisfied that it will give students a greater opportunity to put their knowledge in practice. “The additional year within the school will also aid in the process of professional socialization, critical for success in practice.” The university has approved two new faculty positions for clinical practice teaching, and another position has been approved to teach social administration, to be shared with the Faculty of Medicine.

“An exciting addition to this program is a whole new stream of courses called pharmacy skills that are going to be very practically-oriented. Students will have to integrate the knowledge and learning they have taken over the program and apply it to practice situations and cases. As they progress through the program, cases will become increasingly more complex and will require students to draw on all the knowledge and skills they have developed.”

Dr. Hensman said the practical experience requirements between years will change — it was previously 12 weeks after the first and second years and then a third 12-week placement in the winter semester of the final year. “The criticism we received was that while these placements were structured within particular settings, they weren’t consistent and it was possible to have students graduating who only 12 weeks in a community pharmacy, while others had 24 weeks. Some students had experience in a hospital setting while others had none.

Under the new program, all students will do two four-week placements in a community practice, one four-week placement in a hospital setting, and in their final semester they will have 12 weeks in institutional practice. “Because the placements are unpaid we didn’t feel it was fair to students to have 12 week placements during the spring semester. Even with these changes our pharmacy students will have the most extensive practice experience in the country — we’ve always prided ourselves on that,” said Dr. Hensman.


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Next issue: February 19, 2003

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