Pharmacy Internship : Students’ Learning in a Professional Practice Setting

Abstract: The aim of this thesis was to explore Swedish pharmacist students’ learning during pharmacy internship. Internships are meant to introduce students to professional practice. Education programs have to reflect changes in the professional role, and take into account that learning in a professional practice setting differs from organized formal education. This thesis includes both quantitative and qualitative research approaches and applies workplace learning theories. A scheme for measuring pharmacy students’ reflective ability was developed and shown to be feasible and reliable. Factors important for reflection were found to be primarily social and contextual, especially trained tutor and small pharmacy size. Notably, learning style or critical thinking did not correlate to students’ reflective ability. Tutors and students perceived that students used a wide variety of activities supporting learning of a broad repertoire of knowledge and skills, preparing them for coming professional working life. Tutors are most important to support learning. However, the current curriculum and formal activities do not address all these outcomes and learning activities used, e.g. workplace learning. The first overall conclusion is that internship plays an essential part in the pharmacist education program. The integration of formal and informal learning activities during internship, including raising awareness of incidental learning, is important to support students in learning the professional practice of pharmacy. This integration could possibly be strengthened by introducing further tutor training, different assignments, and by using portfolios. The second conclusion is that the community of practice is essential for students’ learning during internship, especially the student-tutor interaction. Hence, the entire social context has to be considered and it is important to ensure a good learning environment at pharmacies during internship. In summary, this thesis contributes to the understanding of students’ learning during pharmacy internship and introduces educational research on the Swedish undergraduate pharmacy education programs.