Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Sign Language in Brazilian Pharmacy Education

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Sign Language in Brazilian Pharmacy Education

Article excerpt


About 50 million people across the globe are deaf, and 360 million have hearing difficulties. (1) In several countries, the deaf community uses a sign language that has its own grammar, structure, and syntax. (2-4) The sign language used in Brazil is LIBRAS (Lingua Brasileira de Sinais). In Brazil there are about 3.5 million deaf people (1.2% of the population); however, the number of sign language users is unknown. (5)

Members of the deaf community generally have low reading levels and their health literacy is significantly poorer than that of people with normal hearing. (6) Several factors contribute to this low health literacy, including difficulty with understanding written information and communication barriers with healthcare professionals. (7-9) In practice, studies have highlighted that healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists and pharmacy students, have low knowledge about deafness and deaf culture. (10-12) Consequently, patients' low health literacy, along with with pharmacists' inadequate communication skills and lack of training, can cause problems with pharmacotherapy and result in negative healthcare outcomes. (13-15)

According to Mathews and colleagues, the challenges of pharmaceutical communication with deaf patients goes beyond the difficulty of understanding these patients' needs and the challenge of learning basic skills in sign language. (16) Medical terms must be accurately communicated, complicated drug instructions must be given correctly, and pharmacotherapy problems must be prevented or resolved. The literature has highlighted the importance of pharmacists knowing how to communicate with deaf patients since 1993, but difficulties associated with pharmacists' lack of training for these consultations generate discomfort for both professionals and patients. (17) Ferguson and Shan, for example, point out that only 30% of pharmacists feel comfortable interacting with deaf people. (13) However, the need to learn sign language and how to provide healthcare to deaf patients are topics seldom discussed in most training seminars for pharmacists. (16,18,19)

In Brazil, according to national legislation, all university health professions programs must include sign language as an elective course, except for speech therapy programs, for which this course is mandatory. (20) Despite the seemingly obvious advantages of investing in the training of pharmacists to meet the specific health needs of the deaf community, there are no studies evaluating the inclusion of a sign language course in undergraduate pharmacy programs in Brazil. In addition, this analysis has not been done in other countries either. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate curricula in undergraduate pharmacy education of Federal Institutions of Higher Education in Brazil regarding the frequency and content of courses that taught LIBRAS.


The authors completed a descriptive, cross-sectional study that involved an analysis of Brazilian undergraduate pharmacy curriculum between March and June 2017. There were more than 500 schools of pharmacy in Brazil (publics and privates) in 2017; however, only schools of pharmacy from Federal Institutions of Higher Education (FIHE) were chosen to include in the study sample. Only FIHE programs had to make their curriculum available on their web page as recommended by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. (21-22) In Brazil, the pharmacy curriculum takes four years to finish, with students completing a minimum of 4000 hours of training. Pharmacy students must develop an understanding of drugs and medicines, clinical and toxicological analyses, the food industry, and the provision of health care. (23)

A list of schools of pharmacy of Federal Institutions of Higher Education in Brazil was extracted from the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (INEP). (22) The websites of all schools of pharmacy were located and analyzed. To be eligible for the study, the school had to provide its complete curriculum on the website. …

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