Identifying Perceptions of UKZN Graduates on the Relevance and Adequacy of the Pharmacy Curriculum to Current Pharmacy Practice
Background: Pharmacy, like every other profession, is undergoing radical changes. The knowledge and skills base required by the profession are affected by external changes including patient demographics and expectations, emerging disease state priorities, technological developments, regulatory requirements and development in other professions. Pharmacy education therefore needs to timeously and effectively respond to professional and social change to ensure optimal education and training of pharmacists. It remains the responsibility of staff at academic institutions to ensure that the curriculum and teaching and learning methodologies are relevant to the demands of the profession and that they undergo regular review. Feedback from graduates of a programme, who are at the forefront of current practices and challenges of the profession, is one of the approaches critical in evaluating a curriculum for review and change to enhance pharmaceutical education. The aim of this study was therefore to determine the content relevance and adequacy of and skills training in the BPharm curriculum at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), according to the perceptions of its own graduates. Methods: A cross sectional descriptive study was conducted. A structured questionnaire was developed and administered to UKZN graduates. The sample population of 323 included graduates that qualified between 2003–2007 to determine their perceptions towards the pharmacy curriculum in relation to current practice. The list of graduates together with their contact details was obtained from the Faculty of Health Sciences. However, some of the details were no longer relevant and these graduates were thereafter excluded and a valid sample of 152 traceable graduates was obtained. Thereafter, the questionnaires were hand delivered, emailed or faxed as per the participant’s request after obtaining their consent. Data was collected and captured electronically and analysed using the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows version 15. Ethical clearance was obtained from UKZN Faculty of Health Science Ethics Committee (FECHSC 043/08). Results: The response rate was 57%, with 69% of respondents being females. The majority of respondents graduated in the year 2007 and the mean age range of the participants in years was 24 to 27. The majority of respondents indicated that all modules in the current programme were relevant to their practice (72.7%–100%). However, while relevant, the respondents also reported that the various modules were inadequate in meeting their practice needs (5.7%–44.6%). It was also established that there were several areas in the curriculum that were lacking. Only a minority of respondents felt adequately equipped in categories such as complementary and alternative medicines (26.5%), traditional healing (10.6%), drug utilisation review (31.8%), overall pharmacy management (14.5%–41.2%) and screening (54.9%), whilst over 90% of the graduates felt they were particularly adequately equipped in areas such as communication, reconstitution of medicines and Pharmacy laws. Except for computer skills (86.2%), Research (74.7%), Pharmacy Laws (82.8%), First Aid (77.0%), the study also showed that skills acquisition in all the other indicated subject areas from the University during their training was low (1.1%– 54.0%). Overall, 58.1% of graduates felt that their training at university equipped them with the knowledge and skills required to perform their tasks confidently. Conclusions: The findings of the study have highlighted the importance of obtaining feedback from graduates to improve the curriculum. It specifically confirmed a need for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (UKZN) to make specific amendments to the curriculum of the BPharm programme at UKZN in terms of content, to consider introducing new modules and also to explore alternative teaching methodologies within the current constraints of large student numbers and poor resources to enhance skills acquisition in students during their training.