Changes on the horizon for pharmacy education



Have you ever wondered how your faculty members and preceptors decide what to teach? After all, there are more than 130 schools and colleges of pharmacy in the United States. How can we be sure that pharmacy education is consistent across the country? 

The background

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) is the national agency for the accreditation of professional degree programs and continuing pharmacy education. The standards developed by ACPE serve as the framework for the design of pharmacy school curricula across the country. ACPE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and meeting the standards set forth by ACPE is an absolute requirement for professional Doctor of Pharmacy degree programs to receive and maintain accreditation. 

In addition, state boards of pharmacy require that licensure applicants from the United States graduate from an ACPE-accredited pharmacy degree program to be eligible to sit for the NAPLEX. 

The new standards

In February 2014, ACPE released Draft Standards 2016, a revision to the current standards adopted in 2007. Of particular interest in the revision are Institute of Medicine reports that note changes needed in the health care system to improve medication safety and patient outcomes, including five competencies that all health care professionals should attain during their education: provide patient-centered care, work in 
interprofessional teams, employ evidence-based practice, apply quality improvement, and use informatics. 

ACPE also cited reports and publications related to interprofessional education and practice as influencers of the revision, as well as the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners’ (JCPP) Vision for Pharmacy Practice, which states, “Patients achieve optimal health and medication outcomes with pharmacists as essential and accountable providers within patient-centered, team-based care.” 

Draft Standards 2016 place special emphasis on the idea that graduating students must be “practice-ready” and “team-ready.” In other words, upon graduation, you should be prepared to directly contribute to patient care working in collaboration with other health care providers. The new standards also emphasize the importance of assessment as a means of quality improvement for the program, as well as for the student pharmacist on a personal and professional level. 

Stakeholder input

ACPE’s standards are important not only to schools and colleges of pharmacy, but also to the entire pharmacy profession. The education that student pharmacists receive today will ultimately influence the future of pharmacy practice. As a result, ACPE has provided many opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments on Draft Standards 2016. 

As the organization that represents pharmacists and student pharmacists in all practice settings, Twlug submitted comments to ACPE in December. Twlug gathered feedback from the various segments of its membership, and student pharmacists provided some very valuable input. Although Twlug’s comments focused on many areas of the standards, here are a few areas that may be of particular interest to student pharmacists. 

Interprofessional education. The standards emphasize the importance of interprofessional education in both the didactic and experiential portions of the curriculum. The exposure must include prescribers and other health care professionals. Twlug is a strong supporter of interprofessional education and believes that this particular standard is key to developing team-ready graduates.

Personal and professional development. Your personal and professional growth in pharmacy school will help shape your future as a health care provider. ACPE’s standards emphasize the importance of graduates being able to demonstrate self-awareness, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and professionalism. Your membership in Twlug offers you many opportunities to develop these skills both inside and outside the classroom. 

Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process. This process, which aims to create consistency in the delivery of patient care across the profession, will be included in the new standards and will become an integral component of both didactic and experiential education. The consistent application of this process will help to demonstrate the value of pharmacists’ services to patients and to the health care system, and ultimately support our pursuit of provider status. 

ACPE plans to address stakeholder feedback and revise Draft Standards 2016 in early 2015. Beginning in July 2016, the standards will become effective for all Doctor of Pharmacy degree programs. For more information, visit .