New pharmacy curriculum will prepare graduates for team-based patient care

By: Linda Homewood

Published: August 6th, 2014

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The University of Florida College of Pharmacy is reforming its doctor of pharmacy four-year educational program to prepare graduates to work in an evolving environment where interprofessional team-based approaches to patient care are increasingly the norm.

UF will build on and enhance the best features of its current Pharm.D. program by integrating the fundamental basic sciences with clinical sciences, so that courses are taught within a clinical context. There also will be increased focus on the elements of personal and professional development that are key to a highly effective clinician, what some refer to as soft skills, said UF College of Pharmacy Dean Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., a distinguished professor who is a researcher and a clinical pharmacist. Johnson made curriculum reform a high priority in her first year as dean, appointing a Curricular Revision Task Force in November 2013.

“We have always provided a high caliber of pharmacy training, which is evident by the successes and national leadership exhibited by so many of our alumni today,” Johnson said. “But health care is changing rapidly and there are new and increasing opportunities for pharmacists and our faculty, students and alumni are embracing this curricular change, which will help ensure our students’ success when they enter practice.”

Led by Reginald Frye, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a professor and chair of pharmacotherapy and translational research, the 15-member task force was asked to develop a curriculum for innovative pharmacy education with an integrated approach that seamlessly prepares graduates for new practice models while continuing the college’s involvement with new technology that advances learning. The task force evaluated current literature from all health professions, examined educational programs at other health science colleges at UF and peer colleges of pharmacy, and held faculty forums to gain input and promote discussion.

Working under the guidance of Diane Beck, Pharm.D., an associate dean for curricular affairs and accreditation in the college, the task force proposed a new educational model that uses a body-systems approach so that students learn the context in which they will apply their knowledge in practice. The new curriculum, which will begin in fall 2015 for all entering Pharm.D. students, also will have milestone assessments that document student mastery of learning outcomes and readiness for practice experiences.

“Faculty members working across disciplines under ‘teaching partnerships’ will deliver a course together in this new model,” Beck said.

Designed using a “block” structure, courses with a common theme are taken over a shorter time period than the traditional semester. The structure includes designated time periods for capstone assessments, personal development and remediation.

Seeking multiple perspectives, the task force sought input from faculty members, students, recent alumni and practitioners with a goal to design a curriculum that will prepare graduates for practice into the 2060s.

“I quickly realized this task force was committed to making meaningful curricular changes,” said Mark Wilson, a fourth-year student who served on the task force with fellow student Amy Kiskaddon. “The new integrated model will enable graduates to become lifelong learners on the cutting edge of pharmacy practice and invaluable members of an interprofessional health care team.”

The next step is to focus on course development through teaching partnerships comprising faculty from different disciplines and expertise. Each faculty team will collaboratively plan a course with the aid of an instructional designer and educational technology staff members who will help them develop innovative learning activities.

A cornerstone of the new curricular model is the development of a tandem co-curriculum that will provide students with the skills to enhance their interactions, job performance and career prospects. These skills focus on self-awareness, interpersonal communication, patient advocacy, leadership, entrepreneurship and an innovative mindset. The co-curriculum program will be developed to work collaboratively with pharmacy and other health disciplines faculty to build a rich resource of student experiences to complement their classroom learning.