Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Contemporary Professional Skills Development for Pharmacists in the Middle East

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Contemporary Professional Skills Development for Pharmacists in the Middle East

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Sustained shortages in the global pharmacy workforce threatens the ability of health care systems to meet medication-related needs. (1) Several countries in the Middle East are undergoing rapid expansion in population and associated health care demands of its residents. It has been estimated that thousands of new health professionals are necessary to support anticipated levels of care across the region over the next 40 years. (2) In the last decade, Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries experiencing marked economic growth have responded with significant investment in education infrastructures to help meet this demand and augment provision of health services. To mitigate reliance on an expatriate workforce, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, have launched domestic training programs for a myriad of health care providers including nurses, pharmacists, physicians, dietitians, respiratory and physical therapists, pharmacy and laboratory technicians, and paramedics. (3) Frequently, these curricula have been transplanted from North American or European programs and are delivered by expatriate faculty at branch campuses established locally. (4) The appeal of international partnerships reflects increasing standardization of health sciences education and the desire of Middle East region universities and colleges to emulate perceived global leaders. Local students can access high-caliber programs of repute without leaving home.

A college of pharmacy (CPH) was established in 2007 at Qatar University (QU) as the first and only domestic pharmacy school in the country. While it is not a satellite or branch campus of another overseas affiliate university, it is the first program to be internationally accredited by the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP) and as such, its curriculum follows the same standards and educational outcomes as all pharmacy colleges in Canada. In addition to a 5-year undergraduate degree program leading to a bachelor of science in pharmacy (BScPharm, still the current entry-to-practice degree in the country), QU CPH also offers a post-baccalaureate Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. A full-time PharmD degree program is offered to QU BScPharm graduates who then directly enter a one-year internship phase (eight advanced clinical rotations, each four weeks in duration) completing experiential training with pharmacist mentors in direct patient care in the country. A part-time PharmD program is available to pharmacists graduating from other pharmacy programs and who are employed in pharmacy settings in Qatar. In this program, graduate students must complete one to two years of "bridge" courses before reaching the internship phase.

Prior to the first graduating class of 2011, all pharmacists working in Qatar acquired their qualifications abroad. As such, the workforce is a heterogeneous population of professionals with diverse training who have graduated from regional programs that heavily focus on the science of pharmacy rather than the skills required for providing pharmaceutical care. (5) In one self-assessment study, Qatar pharmacists have highlighted the need to further develop abilities related to communication, evidence-based drug information and patient care. (6) To prepare these graduate students for advanced clinical practice expected during the internship phase, they are enrolled in a series of professional skills courses that form part of the overall "bridge" curriculum. The professional skills course series content focuses on development of pharmacist roles related to pharmaceutical care, medication prescribing and dispensing processes, and drug information retrieval and application. Through in-person, laboratory-based activities and simulations, students are trained to exercise written and oral interpersonal and interprofessional communication and advance the knowledge and skills needed to interact appropriately with patients, families and other health care professionals. …

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