EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING FOR PHARMACY: ADVANCING THE HOW, WHY AND WHEN
The Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) will be holding its 3rd annual Colloquium in Canberra on Tuesday 25 August, 2015. The theme for the year is: “The secret ingredient: can we turn up the heat on experiential education?”
As contemporary pharmacy practice evolves in response to regulatory, educational, professional and societal needs so too must experiential learning for students and interns.
When the Accreditation Standards for Pharmacy degree programs in Australia and New Zealand1 were reviewed in 2013, clinical placements generated robust discussion and debate.
While all stakeholders regarded experiential placements as extremely important to prepare pharmacy students for professional practice, there was debate regarding:
- the quality and quantity of such training;
- how best to deliver and assess experiential training; and
- funding imperatives.
Another challenge identified in comparing experiential education across Universities and Programs was the lack of standard terminology to describe the various experiential education options.
The importance of the integration of practice and theory through experiential placements is embedded in the Accreditation Standards. These emphasise student outcomes and performance rather than being prescriptive about the duration of experiential learning.
Students and interns currently undertake experiential learning in a range of settings facilitated from within the profession by pharmacists and by other health providers. A key focus of experiential learning is to turn the facts or theory learned into value to meet individual patient needs.
Experiential learning also plays a role in developing professionalism and transitioning from the student role to a practising professional. This involves students’ learning in environments that are as close as possible to real life situations with all the uncertainty, diversity and complexity that actual practice involves.
The learning scenarios students experience should be authentic to the context within which they will practice and reflect progression of learning with increasing decision making and responsibility. The experience should be informed by the curriculum.
This is to ensure the theoretical base has been laid so that students can experience the placement appropriate to their stage of knowledge and skill acquisition.
Importantly, an understanding that it is not just the application of discipline specific knowledge, but the use of critical thinking, communication skills, inter-professional practice and patient-centred care.
Experiential learning must prepare students for current and future roles to meet evolving societal and workforce needs, commensurate with an ageing population, increasing multimorbidity and complex social and mental health needs.
This necessitates exposure to the workplace, to patients, to carers and to people working in other health professions. It needs to reflect that care will be delivered in different settings – people’s homes, residential aged care, hospitals, ‘integrated medical homes’ and that technological advances are transforming delivery of care.
Not surprisingly a wide range of structural models for experiential learning exist. These vary from university to university, and across student year levels and the internship year, including face to face (in-class and off-site) and simulated activities.2
The APC 2015 Colloquium is an opportunity to discuss the intersection of education and practice, network with a diverse range of colleagues and hear experiences from outside pharmacy and overseas.