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Vol 269 No 7216 p402-403
21 September 2002

This article

Meetings and Conferences

World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences summary

How to be a life-long learner

FIP: Young Pharmacists group

 Further information about the International Pharmaceutical Federation's Young Pharmacists Group is available from:

PO Box 84200, 2508 AE The Hague
The Netherlands

Tel +31 70 302 1978
fax +31 70 302 1999
e-mail: [email protected]

and from FIP's website ().

In the International Pharmaceutical Federation document, "Good pharmacy education practice", a seven-star pharmacist is defined as one who is a care-giver, a decision maker, a communicator, a leader, a manager, a teacher, and a life-long learner. In the light of that, during the Nice congress the FIP Young Pharmacists Group, held the first of what will be a series of forums to look at life-long learning. According to the World Health Organization, pharmacists must possess the concepts and principles of and a commitment to life-long learning as a means of fulfilling and advancing their practice and professional role in society.

At the forum, on 3 September, Rose Marie Parr, director of the Scottish Centre for Post Qualification Pharmaceutical Education (SCPPE), and forum participants discussed the concepts of continuing professional development and life-long learning. "Although education is a good thing, mandatory continuing education does not ensure competence" and "mandatory continuing professional development is an oxymoron, in conflict with the concept of the reflective practitioner" were two of the ideas she explored.

Rose Marie Parr: various CPD activities available to pharmacists

Her address expanded upon the terms life-long learning, continuing education and continuing professional development. Ms Parr made everyone conscious of the need for self-development by posing the question, "If pharmacists suffered adverse drug reactions with their patients would they take more pharmaceutical care?" She pointed out that doctors cause the deaths of more people than airline pilots, probably because pilots take more care since if they make a mistake, they are likely to die with their passengers.

Ms Parr gave examples of different forms of CPD: continuing education, professional audit, participation in relevant formal postgraduate courses, performance appraisal, research (including practice research), active involvement with professional organisations and the provision of training, coaching or mentoring.

CPD, according to the Royal Pharmaceutic al Society of Great Britain, is "the maintenance and enhancement of knowledge, expertise and competence of professionals throughout their careers according to a plan formulated with regard to the needs of the professional, the employer, the profession and society," she said.

According to the Institute of Personnel and Development, CPD is an ongoing approach or process of self-directed learning, which should be a normal part of how professionals plan and manage their whole working life. CPD is described as a systematic, cyclic process of action and reflection that comprises everything that a pharmacist does that makes him or her better able to do a good job. The learning cycle comprises reflection, planning, implementation and evaluation.

Ms Parr went on to describe and explain the five stages of CPD. These were identification of CPD needs, meeting CPD needs, participation in CPD, documenting CPD and evaluating of outcomes

She explained that in identifying personal needs for CPD, a pharmacist reflects on his or her professional life and gains an insight into whether he or she is happy, confident, up to date with developments and feels competent. Besides reflection, the learning needs assessment can be done through talking to peers, gap analysis, practice and critical incident review, auditing and various methods of self assessment, eg, journals, logbooks. There are various scheduled and unscheduled CPD activities available to meet CPD needs. Although it is hard to put a time-cap on a self-directed professional development plan, the Royal Electronicjuice expects each pharmacist to undertake at least 30 hours of CPD each year, Ms Parr told the forum.

Documenting the needs, the means of addressing needs, and participation in CPD activities has been poor so far; but it will become an important aspect in the future, Said Ms Parr. A CPD portfolio may be useful, combined with a CPD record and planner, personal learning plans and appraisal documentation. The evaluation process asks whether the needs addressed have been met. The reflective practitioner will consciously assess the impact of his or her CPD participation on patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, job satisfaction and personal competence. The dynamic process continues as the pharmacist enters the learning cycle once more at the reflective stage.


During a workshop that followed Ms Parr's lecture, three groups of participants discussed the reasons for undertaking a personal learning plan (PLP) and outlined the main advantages of completing a needs assessment exercise before doing a PLP. The debate brought out the key reasons of ensuring competence, identifying exactly what is needed, establishing goals for CPD and having a realistic timeline. Ms Parr stressed that CPD objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.

Participants had the opportunity to rate on a Likert scale the different aspects of examples of previously completed PLPs, enabling them to discuss and compare what comprised a good plan according to the SMART objectives, and what did not. They were then given their own blank PLP to guide them through the process and get them started on the road to life-long learning.

This PLP challenges the pharmacist to identify reasons for undertaking it and the personal educational needs required. Example of reflective questions might include:

• Are you sure that your practice is the right way to achieve best results?

• Is your practice based on research evidence?

• Do you know of any clinical guidelines in this area that describe good practice?

The PLP then guides the pharmacist in addressing educational needs, with the identification of the area of need, a general aim and specific SMART objectives. The planner is encouraged to use active verbs and tangible endpoints. The reflective questions at this stage might be:

• What are you aiming to achieve?

• What steps do you need to take to achieve your objectives?

• Have you thought about the resource implications (in terms of people, time, finance, and equipment) for each of these steps?

The pharmacist has to decide on the specific actions needed to meet his or her learning needs, for example, small group discussions, workshops and formal courses (to name but a few). In the PLP, there is also a guide for the evaluation of learning:

• Which of your objectives have you achieved?

• As a learner, what did you think of the process and what did you learn?

• Have you put new knowledge and skills into practice?

• Can you measure these changes in practice?

• What new learning needs have been identified while doing this learning plan?

The workshop assisted young pharmacists in learning to identify their own learning needs through developing continuing CPD plans, and suggested ways of accessing lifelong learning.
? Contributed by Daniella Zammit, chairman, FIP YPG steering committee 2002?03.

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