Pharmacists as Educators

Pharmacists as Educators – Supporting the Development of Students in the Pharmacy Profession

Pharmacists as Educators – Supporting the Development of Students in the Pharmacy Profession

Project Lead

Dr. Katie Ryan, School of Pharmacy, UCC

The Teaching Challenge

Pharmacists are experts in safe drug usage and are uniquely placed to provide expert advice on a range of health-related issues. Universal challenges for the pharmacy profession include changes in the way patient’s access information, whilst for academics educating the next generation of professionals calls for teaching approaches that prepare pharmacists to be agile and work flexibly in a dynamic professional environment. Integral to this are teaching approaches that provide students with opportunities to develop higher-order, critical thinking skills.

To this end, this project tasked BPharm 4 students taking the PF4015 - Novel Drug Delivery module in Pharmacy in UCC to work collaboratively in groups to develop short educational videos (3 minutes) directed towards a particular stakeholder, e.g. allied healthcare professional or patient (children or adults). A range of different topics related to health promotion (smoking cessation) or medicines usage (inhaler) were chosen. This project highlights how working with others inspires new ideas and that technology enables us to teach and communicate far beyond our immediate personal presence, with lasting impact. Through involvement in this project, undergraduate pharmacy students learn the importance of their role as educators and how this is life-long. Through the creation of educational videos and documentation of their learning using professional CPD frameworks, students have a greater appreciation of the important of digital tools in their own learning and in teaching others, whilst enhanced communication, team-work and technology skills in addition to creative problem-solving support student success. In the COVID era this research also confirms the importance of engagement and collaboration in our own learning, and that teaching opportunities that foster the community of learning are important for educational outputs but also for deeper and richer learning experiences.

The Project

In order to synthesise and integrate scientific and clinical principles from their pharmacy course, BPharm 4 students were tasked with developing a 3-minute educational, videos tailored towards a specific stakeholder on a specific topic e.g. smoking cessation, Stroke and or medicines usage. Students were required to engage with a stakeholder to help develop skills in communication, learning with/from others and to highlight their wide impact on healthcare and the community. Stakeholders identified included qualified pharmacists, allied healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, veterinary) and patients (adults, children). Pharmacy students completed reflective logs using the Pharmacy professional CPD template to document their learning. At the project initiation stage students were introduced to a range of options to record the video and given pros and cons associated with each method. These included VideoScribe®, whiteboard recording and Animaker®. Pharmacy students were required to document their experience from the group and personal perspective. Each group was required to present an oral presentation to their peers in the 4th year pharmacy class challenges. Personal reflections were documented against the CPD template used by the Irish Institute of Pharmacy’s (IIOP), which oversees the development and implementation of a CPD system for qualified pharmacists in Ireland. This required students to reflect and document their learning using the SPADE model by conducting a Self-appraisal, developing an action Plan, document their leaning and Evaluating how they can put their learning into practice. As part of the evaluation, students were also required to review the Core Competency Framework for Pharmacists and to provide a short commentary (100 words) on how their group worked together. This project ran in both 2020 and in 2021. In 2021, due to COVID restrictions, students had to think more carefully about how they interacted with each other and their stakeholders. Both cohorts of students successfully completed the projects, but the value of in-person meetings and collaboration was viewed as a key factor.

The Impact

It is crucial that pharmacy education embodies an emphasis on creating independent and responsible learners and prioritises life-long learning. A key motivator for this project was the use of novel, teaching methods employing technology to foster the development of higher-order, critical thinking skills in undergraduate pharmacy students with a view to better preparing them to work in a dynamic and demanding profession. Secondly, it was important to develop each student’s mindset in relation to their own role as an educator both of patients and colleagues.

This project challenged me as a teacher and my students as future pharmacists and as educators themselves to look at collaboration and technology for greater impact. It had an immediate impact for students in terms of their learning. Importantly for students it allows them to contextualise and apply their learning. It required students to actively research and develop a multitude of skill sets including research, creation of education tools using video media communication in addition to many transferable life skills including planning, management, conflict resolution and negotiation. Through the process students demonstrated creativity and got the opportunity to develop higher order thinking skills and although challenged reported feeling a great sense of achievement.

From a teaching perspective, a close alliance between the project and the community-engaged learning (CEL) philosophy and UCC’s priorities with respect to the connected curriculum. The creation of educational videos provides a great opportunity for students to work on real-life problems, in partnership with the community. Through a structured, iterative approach, students are supported to investigate, synthesise and further refine their learning based on feedback (from lecturers, peers and stakeholders) in the creation of their educational videos. In future offerings, there is greater scope for students to continue their learning with and from others. To further integrate this research with CEL initiatives in the next phase of the project, I have recently undertaken the digital badge in CEL facilitation with the National Forum, and designed the project in the context of the CEL framework including learning outcomes and an assessment framework. I have also conducted the Design Sprint in UCC together with 4 x BPharm 4 students, to see how the research from this project together with CEL could be implemented in the PF4015 module for maximal impact for students and community partners. An important theme that emerged when this project was run in 2021 in the COVID era highlighted the importance of engagement and collaboration in our own learning, and that teaching opportunities that foster the community of learning are important for educational outputs but also for deeper and richer learning experiences.

For more information

View Dr Katie Ryan's research page 

Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL)

West Lodge, Main Campus,