Saturday, 24 November 2012

What to learn?

Source: The Guardian
Recently, I have been given the opportunity to review the syllabus and course specification for a pharmacy Masters course in the UK. A opportunity I feel very privileged to have had, but a task that was far from easy . . .

As I scoured through the specification, the objectives and outcomes, I was struck by the enormous amount of ground work and background the students were given in their first year, to build upon in subsequent years. Thinking back to my experience at medical school (albeit a course at a University with an unusually strong focus on academic science), I recall so much detailed biochemistry, pharmacology and anatomy, much of which was not needed directly during my brief stint of clinical training, but which provided the building blocks for the later learning.

I found myself searching the specification for a similar detailed introduction to the fundamentals of co-production, shared decision-making and self-management (and being pharmacy, how that linked with non-compliance). Maybe it is that the soft stuff like commutation need to be taught in difference ways, but surely it is doing a great injustice not to equip students with the detailed foundations on which to build?! Can these things really be taught though?!

I think that there is a growing collection of evidence around issues of non-compliance (see my article on the UCL Lunch Time Lecture from Nick Brady, Can't take, Won't take - why patients don't take their medications), as well as the value of shared-decision making, informed expert patients and self-management. Seeing as these students are scientifically minded, as I was when I was a medical student, it make sense to talk to them in their language - science i.e. with experiments, evidence and results. Framing all of the patient-centric skills we want them to develop in a way they can comprehend and see the value is critically important.

Various issues such as communication issues were mentioned on the course, but who decides what are communication issues?! I bet you a list drawn up by professionals and patients would have some significant differences! An other point it raised was about information sources - this was mentioned in the professional sense, for pharmacists to find information to improve their ability to manage medications, but I feel very strongly that the role of the pharmacist is changing, and that pharmacists are in a very strong position to be an invaluable resource for patients self-managing (something I allude to in this post!) - but to optimise that, they need a good working knowledge of information sources that patients can access too! We all know the (positive) power of being informed as patients, but that sometimes, we need a little help accessing that information!

It was a fascinating process, and I hope to be able to contribute to more course specifications in the future, but want to wish all the students on the course I looked at the best of luck for the course - it certainly looks challenging and demanding!

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