In a groundbreaking study detailed in the latest issue of Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning, researchers at Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions have developed an extracurricular non-credit course aimed at enhancing the application and long-term retention of clinical knowledge in pharmacy students. The study, acting as a beacon for educational innovation, presents a compelling argument for integrating non-traditional teaching methods into the overstuffed curricula of doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) programs.

Designing a New Learning Pathway

Faced with the enduring challenge of curricular overload, educators are on a quest to bolster student learning without adding to the already heavy demands of PharmD programs. The publication describes a 14-week course built on the principles of spaced repetition and interleaving within case-based exercises, targeting third-year PharmD students at Creighton University.

This extracurricular endeavor keyed in on the Top 300 and over-the-counter medications, brown bag sessions/drug utilization reviews, and medication therapy management, all critical areas that underpin proficient pharmacy practice. The uniqueness of this course lay not just in its content but in its delivery and assessment methods, which were meticulously crafted to foster the kind of deep, practical understanding needed in clinical settings.

Short-term Success and Long-term Gains

The course’s effectiveness was initially appraised via post-course focus groups, with longer-term outcomes evaluated through an online survey conducted nine months after course completion. Insights gathered from these focus groups elucidated three prominent themes: the importance of making connections to prior learning, the need to move beyond memorizing facts, and the advantages of engaging in a low-stakes educational setting.

Enrollment data show that 24 dedicated students sailed through the course and participated in all assessment activities. These assessments not only measured immediate learning gains but also the capacity of students to utilize this knowledge in real-world clinical scenarios during their advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs).

Real-World Impact

More than just an academic exercise, this study showcased tangible impacts on student performance in professional settings. Students reported a staggering 162 course-linked clinical interventions across 16 different APPE settings, underscoring the practical benefits of the course and its positive effect on their ability to execute meaningful clinical interventions.

A Model for Future Curricula

The study, carried out by Kimberley J. Begley and Kevin T. Fuji of Creighton University, provides a clear blueprint for the integration of evidence-based teaching strategies within the confines of traditional curricula. The clear consensus from the student feedback was that augmenting core clinical knowledge through an extracurricular course was well-received and instrumental in their professional development.

Reimagining Pharmacy Education

The article’s authors argue that the success of their non-credit course model demonstrates the potential of remodeling existing courses to adopt similar strategies. This finding suggests that curricular reform in the realm of pharmacy education need not always imply a full-scale overhaul but rather thoughtful, evidence-based tweaks to supplement the learning process.

Looking Forward

As this innovative teaching approach demonstrates, there is fertile ground for enhancing the curricular frameworks of PharmD programs globally. While the study is rooted in a single institution’s practices, it resonates broadly, exemplifying the potential benefits of educational evolution to meet the complex demands of healthcare education.

Begley and Fuji’s work, free from conflict of interest and backed by robust research, marks a significant step forward in the perennial pursuit of academic excellence in pharmacy education. As this new learning model’s effectiveness becomes more widely recognized, it may well inspire a shift in how future pharmacists are trained, marrying the rigors of academia with the realities of clinical practice.

DOI and References

DOI: 10.1016/j.cptl.2023.12.023

References

1. Begley, K. J., & Fuji, K. T. (2024). Enhancing application and long-term retention of clinical knowledge using an extracurricular non-credit course. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cptl.2023.12.023
2. Blumberg, P., & Michael, J. (2012). Development of self-directed learning behaviors in a partially flipped PharmD curriculum. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76(5), Article 94.
3. Persky, A. M., & Pollack, G. M. (2010). Transforming a large-class lecture course to a smaller-group interactive course. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 74(9), Article 160.
4. McLaughlin, J. E., et al. (2014). Pharmacy student engagement, performance, and perception in a flipped satellite classroom. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 78(10), Article 180.
5. Ning, M. Y., & Downing, K. (2015). The impact of supplemental instruction on learning competence and academic performance. Studies in Higher Education, 40(8), 1275-1292.

Keywords

1. Pharmacy Education Innovation
2. Clinical Knowledge Retention
3. Extracurricular Learning PharmD
4. Pharmacy Practice Education
5. Case-Based Learning Pharmacy

With this study’s results poised to ripple through the field of pharmacy education, the future of PharmD programs may look quite different—a future built on a foundation where learning transcends traditional boundaries and where students are empowered to apply their knowledge with confidence and competence in the clinical environment.