Course Director Update: BPharm(Hons)/MPharm

News from our #pharmacistsintraining

Professor Tina Brock

By the time you read this, we’ll be almost ready to launch the second year of the BPharm(Hons)/MPharm course, affectionately called the VIM, for “vertical integrated master’s” and synonymous with the energy and enthusiasm the course conveys. As our P1 pioneers (first-year students) move up to P2 (second-year student) status, they will once again be forging new ground as pharmacists in training. We thank our staff, alumni and community partners for supporting the first year of this exciting journey.

We hold the VIM instructional model D.E.A.R. in our hearts.

Remember when going to class meant sitting quietly in lectures and completing pracs on your own? If so, you would find today’s learning environments noisier and more collaborative. For each unit, our students spend two hours in preparation (Discover), two hours in interactive lecture (Engage), and two hours in workshop (Apply). Following this, they upload evidence of skills development from the weekly workshop activities and use this to write a personalised learning plan (Reflect). Their plan is reviewed by a skills coach – either an academic or a practitioner – and from the feedback provided by their coach, the students commit to a measurable action.

This model is time and staff-intensive, but our preliminary evaluation suggests that we’re on the right path. And we know that not only because of their exam scores, but also because of how they’re performing in simulated and actual practice – more on that below. For a contemporary look at a day in the life of a Monash Pharmacy student, check out this video created by our students:

The OSCE was the knot on the string that really tied everything together for me, as it really helped me consolidate all my acquired skills from my workshops. -P1 student

To demonstrate their counselling skills in a simulated setting, the P1 students participated in Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE). This type of activity shows not just whether the students know facts about common ailments – such as hay fever, headache and common cold, but whether they can combine these facts with the communication skills they’ve been practising in their weekly workshops. As compared with previous years, these students were asked to demonstrate appropriate counselling in more areas, and their overall communication skills were deemed to be on par with those of students more advanced in their studies. If you’d like to learn more about the OSCE process, check out this video:

My initial impression of a pharmacist was just that they dispense. But there is so much more than that. They are clinical, compounding, dispensing, consulting pharmacists, and antimicrobial specialists. I can’t wait to go back! -P1 student

Send first-year students out into the actual practice environment? Some academics were worried – they don’t know enough about medicines, they’ll be overwhelmed! Yet when we were challenged by the practice community to get our students into practice within their first year, we knew it would be a great opportunity.

This year, each P1 student arranged to visit a community pharmacy in semester one and then participated in a one-day hospital visit in semester two. The preliminary results of this approach suggest that the chance to see what pharmacists do so early in the course has broadened student attitudes about the profession and influenced the way they approach their studies.

This was a pilot year for this approach and we are so grateful to the community pharmacists who welcomed our students, and to our hospital partners at Alfred Health, Austin Health and Monash Health for helping us to meet this target. For a look at how we’re promoting the variety of opportunities available for pharmacy graduates, check out the video here:

We look forward to sharing how we are progressing in future issues, and please do let us know if you would like to be part of the course-building process!