Shaping the pharmacist of the future
We live in a rapidly changing world where technology and innovation continuously disrupts the way organisations and institutions do business. Similarly, the education sector, and higher education institutions in particular, are affected by these changes. The question one wrestles with is how do we keep pace with these changes while maintaining the key focus of educating the future generation of pharmacists to remain relevant through adequate and dynamic training.
What then does the future pharmacist need to know and who do they need to be in order to remain relevant and provide the 21st century healthcare? In its 1997 report entitled The Role of the Pharmacist in the Health-Care System – Preparing the Future Pharmacist: Curricular Development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies seven key roles (the “seven-star pharmacist”) which should be considered essential, minimum, common expectations of pharmacists by healthcare systems worldwide.
The identified roles and responsibilities are:
- Life-long learner; and
Over the several years since the publication of the seven-star pharmacist roles, scholars have been suggesting the addition of three more roles to give birth to a new “ten-star pharmacist”. A ten-star pharmacist is expected to fulfil these roles in addition to the seven identified by WHO in 1997:
- Entrepreneur; and
- Agent of Positive Change.
In responding to the WHO publication most countries revised their pharmacy curricula and extended their training programmes from a four-year degree to a six-year degree, for instance the United States of America adopted a Doctoral degree (PharmD) while the United Kingdom went for a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) qualification. South Africa revised the curricula of the pharmacy qualification, but chose to remain with a four-year degree programme.
This year, the South African Pharmacy Council published new competency standards which have a strong focus on public health. The new competency standards require an integrated approach in the training of the future pharmacist. The new curricula to be developed after the adoption of this new competency standards require all stakeholders to review the duration of the training programme so as to ascertain the adequacy of the current four-year programme in preparing the future pharmacist for practise.
South Africa is in a process of implementing universal health coverage, popularly known as the National Health Insurance (NHI), and pharmacists will play a pivotal role in its implementation. The NHI encourages and promotes that healthcare providers adopts group practice in order to give patients a one-stop service.
Education of the future pharmacist should therefore address three key issues:
- the role of the pharmacist in collaborative practice or group practice;
- use data, information and information technology to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery; and
- Communication which involves verbal, non-verbal, listening and writing skills as well as the use of multimedia platforms.
The successful production of the future pharmacist requires all pharmacy stakeholders to be engaged, plugged in and to become the catalyst for change in shaping the content of the training instruments to be utilised in preparing this multi-skilled health professional.