Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Professionalization in Pharmacy Education as a Matter of Identity

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Professionalization in Pharmacy Education as a Matter of Identity

Article excerpt


In 2010, a Global Independent Commission into the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century called for educational reforms to better prepare graduates working in health fields. (1) The commission identified inequitable distribution of health care expertise, threats to health security, and increased demands on health workers as some of the challenges facing those working in health care. The commission also pointed out that graduates were poorly prepared for these challenges in the global health context.

The call for new reforms followed 2 previous calls, both aiming to transform health education. The first, inspired by the 1910 Flexner report, recommended that science knowledge form the basis of health education in a period that saw a dramatic reduction in mortality rates. (1) The second call was characterized by the introduction of problem-based learning into medical curricula. An independent commission consisting of 20 academic and professional leaders from around the world concluded that health education programs were not preparing graduates to respond to demands of the health system and that a curriculum redesign for health education was urgently needed. In particular, they stated: "Professional education ... must inculcate responsible professionalism, not only through explicit knowledge and skills, but also by promotion of an identity and adoption of the values, commitments, and disposition of the profession." (1) Moreover, in 2014, The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) alerted both practitioners and those in pharmacy education to challenging times ahead as the practice of pharmacy continued to become more complex and demanding. (2)

Approaches to professional education primarily focus on competence-based models, where the student is required to demonstrate attitudes, beliefs, and values pertinent to a particular profession. (3,4) Recent research demonstrates that while creating a culture of professionalism and being explicit about professional expectations is important, (5) more focus needs to be placed on the development of student professional identity. (6) Course designers need to examine ways to achieve professional socialization of the student, where focus is placed on who the student is becoming. (7) This identity formation will prepare them most effectively for the challenges which lie ahead. (7) Exposure to the profession through access to role models and experiential learning serves to effectively acculturate aspiring professionals. (5,8,9) Thus, this paper examines implications of the decline in professionalism for health education programs and highlights the challenge in defining professionalism among professional agencies. This paper also describes current approaches to professional education, namely increasing attention directed toward developing a professional identity as a mechanism for professionalization.


There are misgivings regarding the decline of professionalism and common civility in society at large. (3,8,10,11) Examples of professional misconduct and occasions of fraud across disciplines highlight the issue of professionalism and the need to address these issues during university education. (12,13) Undergraduate students are also perpetrators of unprofessional behaviors, fueled by lowering standards as educational institutions are pressured to placate students who feel entitled to special treatment. (14) The need for instruction in professional conduct in health education was highlighted over a century ago. Abraham Flexner's full vision for medical education in 1910 included not only technical and cognitive skills, but also core professional values such as compassion, service, and altruism. (15) These characteristics lie at the heart of those working in the health professions such as medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. Aguilar and colleagues explained the importance of professionalism in these settings: "Health practitioners' professionalism can impact patient care, health outcomes, therapeutic relationships, and the public's perception and trust of a profession and its members. …

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