By: Benjamin Aronson, PharmD, PhD; Kathryn J Smith, PharmD, BCACP; Keri D. Hager, PharmD, BCACP
Teaching Pharmaceutical Care and the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process (PPCP) is an essential, yet challenging duty. As pharmacists, we have made a commitment to “take responsibility for a patient’s drug-related needs, and (be) held accountable for this commitment… for the purpose of achieving positive patient outcomes.”1 As faculty, we have made a commitment to prepare the next generation of pharmacists to care for patients.
What is it about our students, ourselves, and our profession that make it so challenging to transform from a student into a Pharmaceutical Care practitioner?
Charles Kettering said “A problem well-stated is half-solved,” for we must first name the challenge before we can address it. In writing this Pulses blog, our intent is to foster a dialogue about the teaching and learning challenges related to pharmaceutical care, so as faculty, we can collectively focus our teaching efforts on the most important challenges to improve student learning in this arena.
The conversation about the challenges in teaching Pharmaceutical Care and PPCP often starts with student surprise and shock when introduced to these concepts. Not only is it surprising, but in some cases, a point of resistance for them. Why are students shocked when they are introduced to our professional practice? Why are they surprised to find out that pharmacists are responsible for meeting patients’ medication-related needs as the medication expert on the healthcare team? How did they so successfully answer “Why pharmacy?” during their admissions interview? Other health professions’ students seem to have a good grasp on the profession they are entering, and their future professional role. So, why not our new pharmacy students?
Some of the confusion can be attributed to our students’ preconceived notions of a pharmacist’s role, as discussed in a recent Pulses blog post. Many students come to us with narrow views of the roles of pharmacists based on their work or shadowing experiences, their personal experiences as a patient, or their interpretation of others’ experiences within the profession of pharmacy. What about portrayals of pharmacists and pharmacies in the media? When we introduce Pharmaceutical Care, the PPCP, and pharmacists’ roles they haven’t seen before, we may be challenging their preconceived understanding of what it means to be a pharmacist.2 No wonder we sometimes encounter resistance! No wonder we see the “Why do we have to learn this?” attitude emerging. If our job is to encourage all students to adopt a consistent professional identity of a “pharmacist” — the practitioner responsible for a patient’s drug-related needs and medication outcomes — we do not have a firm foundation from which to launch.3,4
How do we encourage students to be open to engaging with material that expands their understanding of the primary roles and functions of a pharmacist?
How do we facilitate the incorporation of Pharmaceutical Care and PPCP into our students’ professional identity development?
Let’s meet our students where they are — we need to acknowledge students’ prior experiences and beliefs about the profession of pharmacy and seek to understand the origins of the misunderstanding. Our students don’t know what they don’t know about the practice of pharmaceutical care. We need to personalize their learning and make the practice of pharmaceutical care “real” for students. Rather than expecting our students to believe something they’ve never seen before, we need to model what it looks like to be a pharmacist. One method is to introduce the PPCP early in the curriculum and link it to aspects of the profession students are familiar with, such as taking a medication history or reading a patient chart.5
Join us in a conversation using the comment box below! Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- What other methods could we use to help our students gain comfort and familiarity with Pharmaceutical Care Practice and the PPCP?
- What other challenges have your students presented when it comes to learning Pharmaceutical Care and the PPCP?
- How have you approached these topics in your courses?
We know students aren’t the only ones struggling with the concepts of Pharmaceutical Care and PPCP. In future posts, we will seek to define teaching and learning problems and professional practice challenges related to Pharmaceutical Care and PPCP and ask for your help in solving them.
The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Kristin Janke for her help in reviewing this post before submission.
- Cipolle RJ, Strand LM, Morley PC. Pharmaceutical Care Practice: The Patient-centered Approach to Medication Management Services. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2012.
- Pestka DL, Sorge LA, Mcclurg MR, Sorensen TD. The Philosophy of Practice for Comprehensive Medication Management: Evaluating Its Meaning and Application by Practitioners. Pharmacotherapy. 2018;38(1):69-79.
- Cruess RL, Cruess SR, Boudreau JD, Snell L, Steinert Y. Reframing Medical Education to Support Professional Identity Formation. Acad Med. 2014;89(11):1446-1451.
- Irby DM, Hamstra SJ. Parting the Clouds: Three Professionalism Frameworks in Medical Education. Acad Med. 2016;91(12):1606-1611.
- Rivkin A. Thinking Clinically from the Beginning: Early Introduction of the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process. Am J Pharm Educ. December 2016;80(10):Article 164.
Ben Aronson is an Assistant Professor of Social and Administrative Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include student success, professional engagement, and helping students find their fit in the profession. In his free time, Ben enjoys cooking for his wife and four sons, winning food eating competitions, and running off all those calories with his very active dog.
Kathryn J Smith is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include professional development and the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process. In her free time, Kate enjoys watching Chicago Cubs baseball and hanging out with her husband and their three daughters.
Keri D. Hager is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy in Duluth. Educational scholarship interests include Pharmaceutical Care & interprofessional collaborative practice development. In her free time, Keri enjoys playing ukulele in her band #airfiddle and enjoying the outdoors with her hubby & geriatric dog, Melinda Doolittle.
Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning