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ACPE Wants Input on Standards for Pharm.D. Degree

Kate Traynor

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) has extended until June 2004 the comment period for the pharmacy profession to suggest changes to the accreditation standards and guidelines for doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree programs.

Jeffrey W. Wadelin, ACPE's associate executive director, said that changes are needed to expand and clarify existing standards and to address issues, such as distance learning, which "were not on our radar screen" in 1997, when the current standards were adopted, but are becoming more widespread. Also needed is guidance on the range of pharmacy practice experiences within a school's curriculum, he said.

"We went from, in the old standards, using the terms 'clerkship' and 'externship,' to, in the [current] standards, talking about a range of practice experience beginning with introductory pharmacy practice experiences and evolving to advanced pharmacy practice experiences," Wadelin said. The problem, he added, is that pharmacy schools are sometimes unsure about exactly what is meant by introductory or advanced experiences. ACPE plans to clarify the issue in the upcoming standards revision.

Wadelin said that another major issue on which ACPE plans to offer additional guidance is outcomes assessment.

"We're really looking for assessment at two levels," Wadelin said. "One is assessment of how the college or school is meeting its overall mission in terms of . . . professional education, graduate education, research and scholarship, service, [and] practice."

The other level, he said, "looks specifically at assessment of student achievement and student outcomes vis-a-vis the professional program itself."

The current pharmacy program standards heralded the phasing out of the baccalaureate in pharmacy in favor of the Pharm.D. degree.

ACPE in 1997 set June 2004 as the termination date for all accredited baccalaureate programs to allow the graduation of students who had enrolled in a program but not yet completed it.

Wadelin remarked that the characteristics of incoming pharmacy students have changed over the years.

"We're seeing a general evolution towards a more mature, more well-educated student coming in," he noted. He estimated that up to two thirds of first-year students have more than two years of post-high-school education, which, he said, is the minimum requirement for incoming pharmacy students.

"Many, many students have three years or more, and as many as a fourth to a third of entering pharmacy students have degrees, although it's not required," he said.

ACPE had originally set a deadline of January 2004 for input from the profession on revising the guidelines, but "we didn't get as much feedback during calendar [year] '03 as we had hoped," Wadelin said.

Wadelin added that ACPE's board of directors, during its January 2004 meeting, decided to "extend each phase of the [standards] review by six months." The new timeline calls for the development of draft guidelines after the initial comment period ends and review of the draft through June 2005. ACPE's board of directors will be asked to approve a final draft in June 2005, after which ACPE would announce an implementation timetable for the revised standards and guidelines.

Comments on the current standards, which are available at ACPE's Web site, should be sent to ACPE, 20 North Clark Street, Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60602-5109.