Giant StEPs for pharmacy placements

Students enrolled in the new Vertical Integrated Masters (BPharm(Hons)/ MPharm) at Monash will have a more relevant placement experience in practice sites under the newly developed Student Experiential Placements (StEPs) program.

“The goal,” says newly recruited StEPs Manager Simon Furletti, “is to increase students’ learning in practice, empowering them to add value by demonstrating what they are capable of doing. We’re increasing the relevance of the placement experience and improving transparency for pharmacists so that they can see that students are learning appropriate skills for the workplace.”

Simon was selected for the newly created role in part because of his extensive experience in community pharmacy.

He has worked as the professional practice manager for Terry White Chemmart and also for Chemist Warehouse as the professional services pharmacist and intern coordinator. He was recently named one of the Australian Journal of Pharmacy’s 12 Agenda Setters.

He has joined the team in order to build the new program, which has been developed in consultation with multiple stakeholders from hospital and community practice sites, taking onboard their feedback and identified needs to provide more effective placements.

“While StEPS is a shift,” he adds, “we are receiving good feedback. Pharmacists understand why we are doing it. We want the system to be more robust and drive what our students should do and learn at practice sites.”

As part of StEPs, a new way of defining and assessing developing pharmacy practice skills has been implemented. Monash students will now have an evolving suite of “entrustable professional activities” (EPAs). These are specific tasks that a student has demonstrated a level of independence in before they commence each placement. This provides much clearer expectations for students and preceptors, so students can participate in tasks appropriate to their level of development.

The EPA model was originally developed in medical education and Monash is the first Australian university to use it in pharmacy education.

Another big shift is the frequency with which students will now attend experiential placements: 110 days across the course of their studies rather than 60.

They will begin with two days in their first year, “mostly so they can see pharmacists practising and understand the context for their future learning,” says Furletti. Previously placements didn’t begin until the third year of study.

Key to the success of StEPs will be building a robust cohort of education partner sites, says Furletti. “We want to build a core group of experiential partners that are a significant part of our program”.

Ultimately, the aim is to improve healthcare by graduating highly skilled pharmacists who can contribute to patient care.