Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Students' Perceptions of Natural Science and Mathematics Subjects

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Students' Perceptions of Natural Science and Mathematics Subjects

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

To be progressive and competitive, countries need a high level of scientific literacy within their general population and, more specifically, in their supply of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. (1) There is a general lack of interest in science subjects by students, especially in secondary education, in the United Kingdom (2,3) and the United States. (4) Children as young as 10 are not interested in pursuing careers in science despite enjoying science at this age. (5) This lack of interest in science subjects increases as students progress through the educational system. (6,7) This has led to a STEM skills shortage in the United Kingdom 1 and is of equal concern in the United States. (8,9)

A major problem with this apathy toward science and mathematics subjects is that many students are unaware of the job prospects that require this knowledge. (10) For instance, many medical students in the United States do not perceive the relevance of science education to clinical practice. (11) This is also an issue within pharmacy and the MPharm curriculum in the United Kingdom, specifically with regard to chemistry. (12)

A study by Langridge and colleagues that investigated the impact of a career explorers program on US high school students' perceptions of pharmacy as a profession found that students entered the program with misconceptions about the roles, duties, and responsibilities of a pharmacist, as well as a lack of understanding of the different career options available. (13) This study provides some evidence of the potential value of understanding students' perceptions of the pharmacy profession. Seventy percent of pharmacy graduates in the United Kingdom are likely to work in community pharmacy, while a relatively smaller cohort (22%) entered the hospital sector and less than 5% worked in industry. (14) Regardless of their career plans, pharmacy students in the United Kingdom are required to complete the MPharm degree and spend 12 months in practice as a preregistration trainee before taking the national registration examination to become a qualified pharmacist. While educational contexts differ, along with the end destination of pharmacy graduates, there is a common emphasis on the importance of maintaining the scientific expertise of pharmacy graduates. This is evident in the guidelines and standards of the accreditation organizations of both the United States and United Kingdom, with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (15) in the United States highlighting the importance of "the thorough scientific foundation necessary for achievement of the professional competencies," and the UK regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council, (16) emphasising that "sound science is the basis of effective pharmacy." This is also recognized at an international level, with the International Pharmaceutical Federation making scientific expertise a core element in its statement of policy on good pharmacy education practice: "Basic (first degree) education programmes should provide pharmacy students and graduates with a sound and balanced grounding in the natural, pharmaceutical and healthcare sciences that provide the essential foundation for pharmacy practice in a multi-professional healthcare delivery environment." (17) While there are obvious differences in pharmacy education, science remains a core subject area within pharmacy education.

There is a need to understand students' perceptions of the role of the pharmacy profession, (18) particularly given discussions in the United Kingdom to change the structure of the MPharm degree program to include an integrated preregistration year similar to other healthcare courses, such as medicine and nursing. (19) Students' views of the profession are likely to affect their engagement with different aspects of their studies. If subjects are considered irrelevant, students will be less motivated to engage in those parts of the curriculum. …

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