Quality assurance in pharmacy education: a cornerstone for strengthening the pharmacy workforce in India
Author: International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Pharmacy Education Taskforce
India has experienced an expansion of its pharmacy educational centres but an uneven distribution has left poorer states with proportionally fewer colleges and the quality of the education is variable. As clinical services provided by pharmacists are fairly new to India, which has traditionally been industry-focused in its pharmacy degree programmes, there is also a shortage of clinical pharmacy trainers. There are approximately 50 pharmacists per 100,000 people at present, with a large urban-rural disparity.
Responding to these needs, the Pharmacy Council of India has formed a strong, multi-sectoral coordination mechanism called the National Task Force for Quality Assurance in Pharmacy Education. Comprising members from pharmacy education, industry, practice and regulation, the Task Force will be responsible for accrediting pharmacy education institutions. It is the first pharmacy-specific accreditation mechanism in the country.
Initially, school faculty and administrators will be expected to undertake a self-assessment, whereby they assess whether or not they are complying with the quality criteria and meeting the needs of their students and the wider community and, if not, to make necessary changes before an external evaluation by the PCI’s Task Force.
The Task Force’s evaluation will include resources and materials that the college can use to achieve excellence. One such resource will be a database of clinical trainers whom the colleges can employ. The process of accreditation will begin as a voluntary exercise, but over time it will become mandatory as the Task Force acquires legal status.
Clinical pharmacy education in India is growing rapidly, with much progress already achieved. Some medical professionals teach clinical pharmacy to help fill a gap in the academic workforce until experienced clinical pharmacists can fill the role. Students are encouraged to undertake research projects in hospitals and showcase their work after it is finished, educating their colleagues and potential employers about the role of pharmacists in hospitals and communities.
The planned activities are only in initial stages currently, however it is expected quality-assured pharmacy education will strengthen learning, so that educational innovations in one college or community can be shared across colleges. It will also form a supportive mechanism so that educational programmes can flourish. The PCI envisages that by 2020 the National QA Task Force will help overcome weaknesses in the education system and help produce appropriately-trained pharmacists with the competencies to not only meet the demands of their country, but also be part of a global competent healthcare workforce.
Pharmacy education, including pharmaceutical research, are important but often overlooked aspects of health workforce training. Serious shortages in the number of trained pharmacists and competency concerns may be addressed by effective accreditation of pharmacy training institutes.