An integrated curriculum to develop future-ready pharmacists

As some 175 NUS Pharmacy graduates took the pharmacist’s pledge as newly registered pharmacists during the recent Pharmacist’s Pledge Affirmation Ceremony, held virtually on 22 May 2020, the Department was already looking towards the future and taking steps to update its curriculum for the upcoming intake of students.

The design of the new curriculum took into account the healthcare needs of Singapore’s ageing population, and the advent of medical and pharmaceutical technological innovations that the world has seen in recent times. It is built on the strength of the current curriculum with the aim to develop graduates into care providers who will also be equipped with leadership qualities and aptitude for innovation and creativity. The high level of integration across basic, clinical and systems sciences, together with a new approach to teaching and learning that interweave knowledge, skills and experiential learning, form the basis of the educational pedagogy.

“This competence-based programme is designed to ensure that our pharmacy graduates are prepared for the opportunities of contemporary and emerging practice,” commented President of the Singapore Pharmacy Council Mr Wu Tuck Seng at the virtual ceremony. “I note that the curriculum of the new programme is highly integrated across the basic, clinical and systems sciences and that innovative approaches are being embraced for learning…I congratulate NUS Department of Pharmacy on this milestone achievement.”

A first in terms of pharmacy education in Singapore, the integrated and competency-based professional pharmacy programme aims to give students a broader perspective of the role of pharmacists in the changing landscape of the healthcare system both locally and globally.

The integration of the different sciences in the revamped syllabus will allow students to see the relevance of basic science to clinical science, the relationship between clinical science and real-world practice, as well as give them a systems perspective along with their patient’s perspective.

Through this inter-dependent framework, the Department offers students the opportunity to not only learn the interconnectivity between the sciences but also uncover relevance and meaning in their education through authentic, value-added, and person and patient-centred roles.

pharmacy curriculum_2.jpg

The new curriculum aims to develop pharmacy graduates who will be able to think in an integrative manner and will be more prepared when they in collaboration with other healthcare workers in clinical settings

Experiential learning will be a vital part throughout the students’ pharmacy education journey, culminating in a 24-week long pre-employment clinical training in their final year. The experiential element will assist students to incrementally develop their clinical competence, view the health system through the eyes of the patient receiving care, as well as enhance the transfer of their learned systems-based concepts to real-world practice.

Final-year students will also take on a Discovery Project, where they will conduct original research to provide solutions to healthcare challenges. This will help them to develop analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as foster creativity and innovation.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way healthcare is delivered, and it will continue to transform the sector. In line with this trend, the new curriculum will also provide pharmacy students with a better understanding of AI applications in healthcare system. To achieve this, pharmacy students will engage in topics including computational thinking, data analytics and inter-personal skills throughout the integrated curriculum. This enriched technology, data and human literacies will expand the roles of pharmacists and enable them to contribute more to the healthcare system.

Another significant aspect of the curriculum is the increased focus on inquiry-based active learning. Methods to encourage this will include Collaborative Learning Workshops where students, in teams, will be guided to formulate solutions to real-life cases.

Professor Christina Chai, Head of the Pharmacy Department initiated the revamp of the professional pharmacy curriculum in 2018, calling it the EduRx Project. The project began in October 2018 and was co-led by Professor Paul John Gallagher and Associate Professor Chui Wai Keung who worked with all the stakeholders of pharmacy education and practice. Both Prof Gallagher and Assoc Prof Chui chaired the Curriculum Design Group comprising Dr Chng Hui Ting, Mr Fan Wenjie, Dr Han Zhe, Associate Professor Ho Han Kiat, Associate Professor Priscilla How, Ms Law Hwalin, Mr Eugene Lim Zi Jie, Mr Lim Zong Neng Anson, Ms Tan Bee Jen, Associate Professor Matthias Gerhard Wacker and Mr Yeo Shao Jie.

Pharmacy students who commence their first-year studies in August 2020 will take the revamped curriculum and graduate with a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) degree after four years.