Survey of undergraduates’ perceptions of experiential learning in the MPharm programme: The TELL Project
Objective: To determine the perception of undergraduate pharmacy students of their experiential learning (EL) placements both in the community and hospital settings.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted utilizing a six-item online survey consisting of one open-ended and five closed-ended questions, the latter utilising five-point Likert-type scales ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). All undergraduate pharmacy students from the School of Pharmacy (N=496) were included in the study. Survey questions assessed students’ perceptions on the effectiveness of the EL, tutors and placements sites, and organisation and structure of the EL. Thematic content analysis was performed on the open-ended comments, where relevant themes were generated.
Results: From the 139 responses (response rate: 28%), 121 responses were analysed, and of these, 72.5% already had part-time jobs in community pharmacies. Close to 85% felt that their part-time work should contribute to EL hours, which is currently not recognised by the university. Respondents were positive about the effectiveness of EL in developing their professionalism and communication (M=3.84, SD=1.05), clinical (M=3.42, SD=1.22), and technical skills (M=3.32, SD=1.25) Respondents provided favourable feedback about their experience in the hospital as it gave them a real-world exposure to the role of a hospital pharmacist. Community placements were not viewed favourably and this was mainly attributed to the poor experience with tutors whom they felt used them as an extra pair of hands. This was thought to impede their learning experience. They also felt that hospital placements were of insufficient duration, reported by 72.5% of respondents. Respondents also felt they should be sent to other sites such as primary care for placements.
Conclusions: Tutor-training is key to ensure tutors are aware of the responsibilities and expectations. Similarly, quality assurance measures should be adopted to ensure tutors and placement sites are capable of providing students with an effective placement experience. While placement durations are a concern, the focus should be on the quality of the placement experience, and ensuring there is structure and flexibility. Content changes are also needed to include emerging placement sites such as primary care to prepare students for evolving pharmacist roles in the changing healthcare system.
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