Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Participants' Perceptions of a Multidisciplinary Training Program for Graduate and Postgraduate Students in Drug Use Management and Policy

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Participants' Perceptions of a Multidisciplinary Training Program for Graduate and Postgraduate Students in Drug Use Management and Policy

Article excerpt


Drug use management and policy research is of increasing-importance to federal governments inorder-to improve the financing, delivery, and management of health care. Conducting research that addresses these issues requires increased human capacity (ie, more people with the appropriate skills engaged in this research). To respond to this need, the College of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, developed the Drug Use Management and Policy Residency Program in 2000. (1) (Although not a residency program in the US professional education sense, this service-learning experience was referred to as a residency program because the graduate and postgraduate students were placed or matched with preceptors and hosted by the healthcare organization for the duration of the program.) This program, open to learners from a wide spectrum of graduate programs (MSc, PhD students, and postdoctoral fellowships), used a service-learning paradigm to coproduce relevant pharmaceutical policy and management research with community partners from provincial government departments and health services delivery organizations.

The program was distinct because not all participants were licensed pharmacists and the focus was on developing research evidence to inform drug policies (eg, findings from systematic reviews, quality improvement initiatives, or evaluation of Nova Scotia hospital or federal/provincial public drug insurance programs). Consequently, residents did not provide clinical care to patients or deliver services to patients during the program. About a third of the participants were pharmacists and the remainder were nonpharmacists with skills relevant to the research conducted.

Most graduate programs encompass a single disciplinary approach with specific content and research methods taught in controlled environments and involve traditional dissemination approaches to academic audiences. (2-5) Although the transdisciplinary and multi-sector nature of applied health services research is recognized, many graduate programs provide limited opportunities for conducting research in applied settings, which allows students to gain an understanding of how research is accessed, appraised, and applied in the "real world" of decision-making. (2,5) Because many health services research graduate students are finding employment with government and health care organizations and not academia, the lack of hands-on experience with real world health policy is of concern. (6,7)

More exposure of students from undergraduate and graduate pharmacy and health profession programs to community-based clinical, program management, and policy environments is needed, and this has been promoted in guidelines, standards, and discussion papers. For example, the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaboration developed a nationwide competency framework which requires incorporation of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed to make judgements and apply them to practice settings. (8) Competencies identified by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) (9) and the Center for the Advancement of Pharmaceutical Education (CAPE), (10) although designed for pharmacy education, can be applicable to graduate programs. Items of particular relevance include: establishing linkages between decision-makers and current and future researchers, developing population-specific, evidence-based disease management programs, and facilitating students' commitments to become independent, self-initiated life-long learners. (8-10) Morgan and colleagues identified a framework of attributes for master's programs in health services and policy research which included the need to formulate important research questions and apply knowledge to complex environments. (11)

A common element to the many definitions of health services research is producing evidence to inform health system improvements. (12) Engaged scholarship is one approach where researchers and their graduate students are linked with decision-makers in mutually beneficial partnerships which can be transdisciplinary often integrating multiple forms of scholarship. …

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