The Teacher Practitioner Team is a group of clinical pharmacists based in the acute hospital Trusts in Northern Ireland who facilitate experiential learning for Pharmacy undergraduate students.
The TPs are experienced clinical pharmacists with specialisation in a wide range of clinical areas including respiratory, gastrointestinal, cerebrovascular stroke, patient safety and cardiology. The TPs split their roles between practicing clinical pharmacy at the hospital Trust and supporting postgraduate education at the Trust including pre-registration and various advanced practice courses and teaching undergraduate students. TPs teach on a number of therapeutic areas throughout the MPharm providing contexualisation to the topics covered by including real life cases for students to discuss and debate. Many of the TPs are independent prescribers and prescribe for their patients in a number of areas in both primary and secondary care and are able to incorporate their experiences of nuanced patient care into teaching others patient management skills.
The TP Team support both Schools of Pharmacy; Queens University Belfast and the Ulster University at Coleraine. Students from both Schools of Pharmacy are taught together during placements at hospital sites from second to fourth year of their MPharm. The TPs design and assess the placements and are supported in the delivery of teaching at the Trust site by committed full time clinical pharmacists who give up their clinical time with patients to teach undergraduates. Students benefit from real world experience and are able to put evidence based learning into practice and to develop and expand their communication skills with a wide range of real patients from paedatrics to mental health.
The TP Team also supervise final year projects each year where students research clinical areas and also aspects of practise education. Second to fourth year students are assessed by Objective Structured Clinical Examination and the TP Team develop and design these based on patients they meet on a daily basis in the clinical part of their roles.
First year – one day in first semester
In first year, all students attend a one day placement where they are introduced to the role of the pharmacist in a hospital environment. The placement is designed around the “journey” that a medicine makes from the first decision, at ward level, that it is required for a patient, through to its prescribing on a medication kardex, its ordering from the pharmacy, purchase from a wholesaler, dispensing and checking in the pharmacy and deliver to the ward through to its administration to the patient and monitoring of its effects and side-effects. This is a multi-faceted system with input from a wide range of healthcare professionals and the patient themselves. Students will visit a number of areas in the pharmacy department including the dispensary, aseptic preparation and will also visit a ward to speak directly with a patient and healthcare professionals. There is a focus on assimilation to the hospital environment in first year as much as familiarisation with the potential future roles for them in hospital practice.
Second year – one week in the second semester
In second year, all students participate in a one week placement which has been crafted to provide students with the opportunity to develop their core clinical pharmacy skills and behaviours. These will act as building blocks for future experiential learning in subsequent years of the MPharm. There is a heavy emphasis on communication skills as well as professionalism and the clinical skills introduced include medication history and reconciliation and how to use the BNF to resolve simple queries. All students are expected to interact with patients and healthcare professionals during their placement are given individual feedback on their interactions from clinical pharmacist tutors. Students will practice their skills in a group with a range of patients in a number of clinical areas and are assessed via Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) at the end of the placement.
Students are also given the opportunity to discuss areas of pharmacy practise with a wide range of Specialist pharmacists including Medicines Governance, Palliative Care, Paediatrics, Oncology as well as other healthcare professionals including Nursing staff, Dieticians, Medical staff as available.
Third year – 5 individual days in the second semester
For third year students, the focus of the experiential learning is to provide opportunities to put their considerable theoretical knowledge of therapeutics into place with real patient cases. The placement is divided up over the second semester from January through to the Easter break in March or April. Students attend their allocated hospital site on alternate Thursdays throughout the semester and are entirely patient facing in a variety of clinical settings. Each week students are expected to develop an evidence-based therapeutic management plan based on the principles of Medicines Optimisation for a patient they encounter. Individualised feedback in given on the day from their clinical pharmacist tutors and just one of these plans is submitted for assessment. Additional tasks completed include discussing therapy choices and changes with healthcare professionals, clinically checking the suitability of a discharge medication and completing medicines reconciliation with a patient. As in second year, student’s marks are based on both their application of therapeutic knowledge as well as their professionalism with patients and healthcare staff whilst on placement.
Fourth year – 5 individual days in the first semester
In the final year, the placement also divided up over 5 days and students attends alternate Tuesdays from September through to the end of November in the first semester. Students are expected to again develop a management plan for a patient, in this case, a more complex patient and to be able to demonstrate a greater depth of understanding of the decisions made for the patient’s care as well as the long term monitoring required to maintain optimum patient management. Students also participate in a service development audit – they are expected to design a data collection form, pilot it and collect data over the allocated collection period. The assessment is based on their ability to present their results and recommendations to their peers and the Teacher practitioner. These audits are chosen by the clinical staff at the hospital site and the results are fed back to the healthcare teams.
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