It’s exciting to be back on campus at Makerere University School of Pharmacy amidst the hustle and bustle of the beginning of a new school year. And seeing smiles on familiar faces is incredibly welcoming. I have always been warmly welcomed to Uganda, both initially, and on every return trip, but when those welcomes are from the many friends I’ve made here, it really has begun to feel like a place am supposed to be, a second home. The day started when I was picked up at the Edgehouse (the name of the Visiting Scholar Villa where I live) by Professor Odoi and brought down to the pharmacy school. The class schedule that we had set out for the new Pharmaceutical Care Skills Lab had the first session starting at 9am on Mondays for the 4th year pharmacy school class. Since this was the first day of classes, I wasn’t too surprised that this didn’t take place, nor did the session for the 3rd year class, originally scheduled for 2pm on Mondays. Instead, it was agreed that the both of the classes would be gathered for a review of the syllabus at 2pm in a large lecture hall. The image included here only includes half of the students because the 3rd years had already left when I took this picture. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that I was able to take this time to go over the syllabus in great detail since this course is quite different from anything they’ve had before and there were lots of questions.
The Pharmaceutical Care Skills Lab (PSCL) is a practical, patient care lab, rather than bench or scientific laboratory. It is a 3 hour time block when students are gathered to learn and practice pharmaceutical care skills using role-play to enact patient care scenarios. According to ASHP (American Society of Health System Pharmacy), Pharmaceutical Care is the “direct, responsible provision of medication related care for the purpose of achieving definite outcomes that improve a patient’s quality of life.” Currently, the Bachelors of Pharmacy curriculum at Makerere is mostly basic science-based didactic teaching. Of course the usual pharmacology (how drugs work in the body) and therapeutics (how drugs are used to treat diseases) are taught but students don’t formally learn and practice the skills needed to help improve the health of actual patients like how to communicate with other healthcare providers and how to educate patients and how to utilize drug information resources to identify and make recommendations about drug therapy problems that could interfere with the patient’s best health outcome.
The PCSL course we have developed will also include an experiential component where the Pharmacy Students will be going to Mulago National Referral Hospital on a weekly basis to put into use, under the supervision of the Pharmacy Interns and Pharmacists, the PC skills they are learning in class. They will also focus on meeting and getting to know patients with the diseases they are studying in class so they get a better idea of how the illnesses and drug therapies are impacting, both negatively and positively, the patient’s life.
This morning we have a meeting between faculty and Pharmacists at Mulago Hospital to figure out how the experiential component will work. We are all in agreement that this is a good idea and will be very helpful to the student’s growth as they learn to be pharmacists, but the logistics are going to be tricky. We will most definitely have to figure out a compromise that doesn’t adversely affect the learning program of the Pharmacy Interns (these are recently graduated pharmacy students who are in a year of internship prior to becoming fully licensed pharmacists) or the goals we have set forward for the Pharmacy Students. One thing I’ve learned through my 26 years as a Pharmacist and 11 years as a Pharmacy Professor is that flexibility is going to be key as we start new programs. We will have to adjust as we go so that all needs are met. One way to help this process along is to try to see the situation from the others’ point of view. We will need to keep our eyes focused on the larger purpose of this new PCSL, which is to be part of the solution to advance Pharmacy Practice so that the lives and health of the patients in Uganda are changed for the better.