Newswise — The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Science will be enhancing the curriculum of its undergraduate Pharmacy degree programme to educate and train Pharmacy graduates to meet the needs of a changing and increasingly complex healthcare system in Singapore. Students enrolling in the Pharmacy programme in August 2014 will be the first to benefit from the curriculum enhancements.
Currently, the four-year degree programme is the only local Pharmacy degree programme recognised by the Singapore Pharmacy Council which regulates the registration of licensed pharmacists. The enhanced programme will provide students with a more holistic education that integrates the learning of professional skills with clinical training and experiential learning. The new curriculum organises the course content into four longitudinal themes and new modules are also introduced to enhance students' practical professional skills. In addition, all Pharmacy students in the final year will be required to conduct an individual research project and go through a six-month internship.
The internship can contribute towards the mandatory 12-month pre-registration training required by the Singapore Pharmacy Council. In light of this, under the new curriculum, Pharmacy students would only need to complete another six months of training in order to apply for registration as a licensed pharmacist.
These changes are introduced after a two-year review of the curriculum, which started in 2012.
Professor Andrew Wee, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Science said, “Our Pharmacy programme has a good track record of producing graduates who are highly sought-after by the healthcare sector and pharmaceutical industries. The curriculum review is part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that the training of Pharmacy undergraduates remain relevant and is of the highest standards. We are confident that our graduates will continue to make important contributions to the pharmacy profession and the healthcare sector in Singapore.”
Addressing increasingly complex roles of pharmacists
The pharmacy profession, both globally and in Singapore, has evolved in response to the societal need for improvement in the use of medicine.
Associate Professor Chui Wai Keung, Head of the NUS Department of Pharmacy, explained, “Pharmacists today have a key role to play in the delivery of high quality healthcare to patients. Health products available must be of high quality so that drug-related problems due to inferior quality of health products will not happen. Services provided by pharmacists must also be timely and relevant so that patients can benefit from the therapies prescribed. The new curriculum is therefore designed to equip our Pharmacy graduates to be effective in the new roles expected of them.”
Key enhancements to the NUS Pharmacy curriculum
The review of the pharmacy curriculum involved setting a clear set of learning outcomes derived through guidance from the Competency Standards for Pharmacists in Singapore. In addition, key stakeholders, including government agencies, professional bodies, practitioners and academic units within NUS that support the training of Pharmacy undergraduates, were consulted to solicit feedback and requirements. The Department of Pharmacy also collaborates closely with the Ministry of Health, which supports the pre-employment clinical training of students.
The new Pharmacy curriculum comprises the following:
• Theme-based curriculum
The study of Pharmacy entails learning from multiple disciplines. To help students integrate knowledge across disciplines and prepare them to become collaboratively-ready pharmacists who can understand and work well with other healthcare professionals, the contents of the modular programmes have been restructured into four themes, namely: drug discovery and development; microbes in pharmaceutical science and human health; disease management and pharmaceutical care; and regulatory and good practice. The themes are designed to group modules that traverse longitudinally across the first three years of the curriculum, while the fourth year is experiential in nature.
• New modules to enhance professional practice
Four new modules relating to "Pharmacy Professional Skills Development" will be introduced. These modules, which are spread across the four years of study and are practice-based, aim to help students develop essential clinical and patient management skills. Students are assessed based on their achievement of competency in the relevant skill set.
• Experiential learning
The new curriculum is designed to provide Pharmacy students with greater opportunities for experiential learning in their final year of study. All Pharmacy students will also be required to conduct a final-year research project to hone their skills in problem-solving and finding evidence-based solutions.
In addition, students are required to perform six months of internship either in a hospital, community pharmacy, polyclinic, pharmaceutical company or regulatory body. The satisfactory completion of the six-month internship can count towards the 12-month pre-registration training required by the Singapore Pharmacy Council to qualify to be a licensed pharmacist.
To enrich the learning experience of Pharmacy students, technology-assisted modes of teaching, such as videos of experimental procedures, apps for content delivery and case studies, as well as interactive virtual online environment, such as Second Life, will be employed.