Magazine article Drug Topics

Ensuring Quality in New Programs

Magazine article Drug Topics

Ensuring Quality in New Programs

Article excerpt

DISPENSED AS WRITTEN

My work with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) allows me to meet with students and pharmacists and hear their thoughts, concerns, and feedback about their practice experiences. Often, the discussion centers on the increasing number of pharmacy schools and what could be done to stem the tide. Important questions are being asked. "Will there be job opportunities? Can I command a stable salary? Will I earn enough to repay my student loans?" I understand their concerns and know that these questions don't have simple answers.

The role of accreditation

As the national accrediting body for professional degree programs in pharmacy, ACPE has a mandate to set quality standards for the education of pharmacists to prepare them to work with other health professionals in the delivery of patient care. Pharmacy is not alone in facing the demands of an expansion in professional programs. Medical, nursing, physical therapy, law, and dentistry schools are undergoing similar growth.

Some have argued that ACPE should be a gatekeeper to manage the number of schools and colleges of pharmacy and the quantity of graduates they produce. This is not an appropriate role for accrediting bodies in any profession. Accreditation is designed to ensure and advance quality and cannot be used to regulate workforce numbers or restrict the market. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 specifically prohibits restraint of competition and this Act applies to our workforce.

Requirements and standards

ACPE applies rigorous accreditation standards developed through a lengthy and comprehensive process involving all professional stakeholders. Quality assurance is the central focus, and accreditation decisions are based strictly on compliance with standards. It is important, however, for our profession to better understand the rigor of the process for new school reviews.

Attainment of full accreditation requires a minimum of 5 on-site reviews in 7 years and involves scrutiny by up to 36 individuals who assess whether a program complies with standards. To initiate the process, a new program must meet threshold expectations for 20 distinct elements that demonstrate preparedness to educate student pharmacists before an initial site visit is authorized and precandidate accreditation status can be evaluated. …

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