There are several reports in the literature describing studies conducted to determine the level of formalized didactic and experiential drug information instruction in colleges and schools of pharmacy.1,13,17-22
In 1982, Kirschenbaum and Rosenberg13
conducted a survey to determine the scope of drug information educational programs offered by drug information centers and 72 colleges of pharmacy to fifth-year baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate PharmD candidates. The response rate was 93% (n = 67). Almost all respondents provided some level of formal drug information education to their students. At that time, only 50% of pharmacy schools (n = 32) provided a formal drug information clerkship experience as part of their baccalaureate curricula. In contrast, all schools offering the PharmD program as the first-professional degree (number not stated) provided drug information clerkships as a requirement. The authors concluded that bachelor of science pharmacy students were receiving insufficient drug information training.
In 1992, Davis and Krucke conducted a survey of drug information educators at 75 schools of pharmacy throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to assess the experience of pharmacy students in drug information courses and clerkships.1
The overall response rate was 75% (n = 56). At the time of the survey, 77% (n = 43) of the schools of pharmacy continued to offer the BS in pharmacy as the sole first-professional degree. Fifty-seven percent (n = 32) of schools also offered a postbaccalaureate (post-BS) PharmD program and 27% (n = 15) offered a 6-year first-professional PharmD program. Results from this study showed that didactic drug information was a requirement in all of the schools offering a postbaccalaureate PharmD program and in 90% of first-professional PharmD degree programs, whereas more than 70% of schools with a BS program as the sole entry-level program offered didactic drug information instruction as an elective course. All post-BS PharmD degree programs had a drug information clerkship as a requirement. In contrast, drug information clerkships were offered more often on an elective basis at institutions in BS programs and where the only PharmD degree offered is the entry-level type.
In 1994, Mullins et al22
conducted a similar survey to evaluate drug information course content and organization of the 75 schools and colleges of pharmacy existing at that time. Experiential drug information clerkships were not evaluated in this survey. The overall response rate was 89% (n = 66). The results showed that, of the schools that responded, drug information was offered as a separate didactic course to 53% (n = 29) of baccalaureate students, 45% (n = 25) of first-professional degree PharmD students, and 50% (n = 27) of the post-baccalaureate PharmD programs. The schools that did not offer drug information as a separate course indicated a lack of faculty members, lack of time to teach the course, and inclusion of drug information instruction within other courses or clerkships as reasons for not providing the course. Course topics that were strongly emphasized by almost all programs as important were study design, efficient search strategies, types and functions of information resources, oral and written communication skills, and statistical methods.
Our study was designed to characterize the status of drug information education at a time when all schools within the United States were assumed to have transitioned to a first-professional degree PharmD program. This fact is corroborated by all responding schools that offered a campus-based 6-year first-professional degree PharmD as the sole pharmacy degree. Our study response rate of 73 percent also represented a reasonable overview of the status of drug information education within the United States.
Results of this study demonstrated that didactic drug information education was offered in all pharmacy schools with a first-professional degree PharmD program. Seventy percent of these schools indicated that it was a required and standalone course. (These data are also corroborated in a study23
where 89% of first-professional degree programs offered a required didactic drug information course). The remainder of schools (30%) indicated that drug information instruction was integrated within another course or across the entire P1 through P4 professional curriculum. In the standalone model, didactic drug information was most often available as a 1-semester course with 2 to 3 classroom hours devoted to it per week. The majority of schools placed didactic drug information in the P2 or P3 years of their curricula. Our results are comparable to the findings of Davis and Krucke1
where 90% of first-professional degree PharmD programs and 100% of post-baccalaureate PharmD programs offered a required didactic drug information course in contrast to 70% of entry-level BS programs which offered didactic drug information on an elective basis only.
Didactic course contents considered to be very important by all respondents were the following: a systematic approach to handling drug information requests; drug literature evaluation; statistics; evidence-based medicine; sources of information; formal instruction on finding and/or evaluating Internet resources; and formal instruction on computer database information retrieval (eg, Micromedex, MEDLINE, IPA, etc). The authors acknowledge that the position or title of the respondent may have influenced their opinions regarding the importance of drug information skills. However, 44% of respondents were drug information course coordinators and the authors believe the data are representative of content areas that should be considered as part of an ideal drug information curriculum. Mullins et al22
emphasized the following subject areas as important course content: study design, efficient search strategies, types and functions of information resources, oral and written communication skills, and statistical methods.
Our study demonstrated that a major weakness in drug information education was a lack of colleges that offered a pharmacy practice experience in drug information as a required professional clerkship rotation. Sixty-two percent of pharmacy schools in this study offered experiential education in drug information on an elective basis, whereas 15% offered the experiential component as a requirement. The majority of our study respondents (87%) did not indicate any reason (s) for not offering a required experiential component in drug information education despite being provided with the following choices in question 34: drug information training is adequately covered within other courses; lack of faculty resources; lack of adequate training sites; and competition for credit hours within the existing curriculum. The authors believe that this apparent omission of question 34 may have been a misunderstanding of the question by respondents who offered drug information practice experience on an elective basis only. This glaring hole in pharmacy education is also corroborated by Cole and Berensen.23
The primary reasons given by respondents in their study were a lack of practice sites and a lack of qualified faculty members. The low percentage of programs requiring or offering drug information practice experience in the first-professional degree PharmD programs is similar to that of entry-level BS programs. In 1982,13
drug information clerkships were offered in 50% of schools with the entry-level BS program, and similarly in 1992,1
drug information clerkships were offered more often on an elective basis in schools where the entry-level degrees were a either a BS or PharmD degree. In contrast, all colleges that offered the postbaccalaureate PharmD program had a required experiential drug information component in their curriculum. To the investigators' knowledge, there are no data published to support the assertion that not requiring drug information experiential education is a weakness. It is the author's opinion that current students graduating from first-professional degree pharmacy programs may not have adequate drug information skills required to practice pharmacy.
In the survey by Davis and Krucke,1
the average number of students enrolled per year in the BS programs was 273; first-professional degree PharmD programs had an average of 169 students, and post-baccalaureate PharmD programs were the smallest with an average of 20 students. The increase in class size of the first-professional degree PharmD programs combined with previously indicated inadequate resources in teaching drug information as a required part of the curricula in both the didactic and clerkship components might lead to omissions in previously identified subject matters or the absence of a required drug information experiential education component in contemporary PharmD curricula. There have been a few reports in the literature by schools of pharmacy that have utilized new models to develop students' critical thinking and drug information skills. Some of these models include integrating drug information instruction across the 4-year professional curriculum to provide both didactic and practical learning experience; incorporation of drug information portfolios; developing a drug information laboratory; and using an interactive computer-assisted learning program for teaching drug information.24-29
This study was limited in that it was not designed to assess specific outcomes of students' drug information skills and knowledge, nor did it assess the status of drug information residency programs or formal drug information services offered by colleges of pharmacy.