Medical education is currently undergoing a period of transition. The idea that the current system in place in the way we educate students needs improvement is catching on. Whether some folks like it (or not), the “traditional” ways in which we educate students is simply not working. Hours of homework, long lectures in the didactic setting, and memorizing information only to be regurgitated for the purposes of an examination…how does this benefit our students? In a matter of just a few years, these same students will make their transitions out into the real world only to quickly realize and experience that those skills that are of essential and of most value in clinical practice- critical thinking, decision-making, and problem solving skills; prioritization of tasks; and communication in both the verbal and written forms- are lacking.
However, within the past five to ten years, the idea has caught on across several systems of higher education that has found its way into the classroom setting. Web 2.0 technologies are increasingly being utilized by faculty across the world as a means of supplementing material covered in a course. The results have been astounding in that students actually do desire and appreciate this mechanism of learning. Several studies have demonstrated that enhanced participation, improved communication, meaningful discussion between both faculty members and students can arise as a result, allowing for a positive learning experience. In turn, when faculty members facilitate the development of such skills in students that in the classroom setting, students can progressively become equipped with self-direction in honing these skills over the course of their years in the educational system that will allow for a smoother transition and eventual continuation as they embark upon their careers.
Our colleagues in medicine are recognizing the shortcomings of the educational system currently in place, and are calling upon educators for an open discussion to take place of both the strengths and challenges of the system in association with clinical practice, as well as ways in which educators have used innovative processes to provide for fruitful learning experience in both the classroom setting and at the bedside that have enhanced application-based knowledge related to patient care. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has put forth one such call for papers for the medical education issue to be published in December 2014. Similarly, Academic Medicine has also put forth a call for papers related to these and other issues in graduate medical education to address their 2014 “Question of the Year.”
So what about pharmacy education?
Pharmacy education should not be too far behind in identifying and recognizing these issues as well. While several have addressed issues related to e-professionalism in pharmacy ad nauseam, it is evident that we need to go beyond this concept to ensure that we are at the same pace with our peers in medicine, especially since there is greater emphasis being placed on practicing within a multidisciplinary team. Many of these same issues are encountered by students and faculty alike in pharmacy education, and there have been several pharmacy educators who are already taking the steps in making changes in the ways students are being taught in both the small and large classroom setting. We are still in the very early stages of the process, and these changes are certainly not without their barriers and limitations (real or not). In addition, whether this translates to the practice setting and the impact these non-traditional methods will make on our students as they become engaged in their careers remains to be seen.
Despite this, I will remain optimistic and do my bit to contribute, and I am hopeful that as more and more educators are bought into these ideas, sweeping changes will take place that will enhance the education of our students while simultaneously allowing for rewarding professional and career development among pharmacy educators.
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