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Refurbishing Pharmacy Education in the Epoch of Covid-19 Pandemic: A Pressing Priority

Dr Saurabh Kumar Banerjee

Dr Saurabh Kumar Banerjee, Dean & Associate Professor at School of Pharmaceutical Management, IIHMR University, Jaipur, writes about the need to re-imagine pharmacy education in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of minds to think.” This famous quote by Albert Einstein points that the essence of education lies not only in theoretical knowledge from the textbooks but conditioning the minds to think innovatively. The Covid-19 Pandemic has in fact again brought the quotation live and has compelled the educationist worldwide to reinvent the role of education in controlling a pandemic of this magnitude which has devastated the entire world.

In the larger context of education, pharmacy education provides the most vital skill sets, which has a tremendous potential to serve the vulnerable society suffering from the atrocities of the Covid-19 pandemic. The present piece of writing is an attempt to suggest some possible ways through which the pharmacy institutes can contribute towards building a responsible fleet of pharmacy professional dedicated to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Role of Pharmacy Institutes towards Covid-19 Preparedness

The role of the pharmacy institutes and the people engaged in the pharmacy profession is very important in terms of preparedness to tackle a pandemic of this massive scale and could be briefly summarised as depicted in the below figure:

Efforts should be laid down by the pharmacy institutes and pharmacy education regulatory bodies to inculcate the below-mentioned points in the academic curriculum/ elective courses/practical training/ certificate programmes, so that the students pursuing various pharmacy programmes (D Pharm, B Pharm, M Pharm, Pharm D, MBA Pharmaceutical Management) can comprehend the policies and regulations which are laid down by GOI and can contribute their services towards control of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The important suggestions are listed:

1. Facilitating Information on Covid-19 and Covid-19 Vaccines: The academic structure of the UG/PG pharmacy colleges should include a provision of providing relevant information on the Covid-19 disease and Covid-19 vaccines which are being rolled out in India. The various components could include:

a) Symptoms of Covid-19

b) How is Covid-19 transmitted

c) Information on the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines

d) Where could the public access the Covid-19 vaccines

e) Features of the CO-WIN applications

f) Process of registration for the vaccination

g) Post-vaccination care and support

2. Conduct Research on Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccine hesitancy is a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated by certain groups of people in society even when they have access to life-saving vaccines. The World Health Organization has identified Vaccine hesitancy as one of the top global health threats. There could be various underlying factors why people do not participate in the vaccination drive and this could be the area of research for many PG pharmacy courses especially (M Pharm, Pharm D, MBA Pharmaceutical Management). Research at specific community levels around vaccine hesitancy could provide valuable insights for understanding the facilitating and hindering factors for vaccinating the anti-vaxers.

3. Act as a Catalyst for Spreading Awareness about Covid Appropriate Behaviors (CAB): The pharmacy institutions have a tremendous role in educating and training there UG/PG students about the Covid Appropriate Behaviours (CAB). The pharmacy students, in turn, can sensitise the public at large about the significance of Covid Appropriate Behaviors (CAB) could prevent the community transmission and can aid in the personal safety of the individuals. The important components of Covid Appropriate Behaviors (CAB) could be:

a) Appropriate use of Masks

b) Significance of hand washing with soap and use of sanitisers

c) Significance of social distancing

d) Significance of self-isolation and isolation guidelines

e) Significance of prompt diagnostic testing

4. Tie-up of the Pharmacy Institutes with the Diagnostic Industries: It is a well-accepted fact that proper treatments begin from accurate diagnosis and the Covid-19 pandemic saw a surge in the diagnostic industry leading to an influx of various detection kits for Covid-19 virus detection. The detection kits vary from rapid antigen testing kits to antibody testing kits and their development from R&D to commercialization in the market needs a sound and thorough understanding about the diagnostic industry and the diagnostic kits. The pharmacy institutes can tie up with the diagnostic industry and explore the possibilities of providing internship and project work to the pharmacy students.

5. Motivating the Pharmacy Students to take the Online Training Programmes developed by WHO: World Health Organization has developed a series of online training programs centred around the Covid-19 to increase the knowledge and to train the health professionals. The online training programs can be accessed on the website at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novelcoronavirus-2019/training/onlinetraining.

The online training is available with various titles such as COVID-19 vaccination training for health workers, Guidance on mask use in the context of COVID-19, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Clinical management of patients with COVID-19 – General considerations. The pharmacy institutes should motivate the UG/ PG students to take these free online training programs which will motivate the students towards their participation towards the covid-19 pandemic preparedness.

6. Conduct of Practical Training of the UG Students in the Industries Producing Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE): The burst of the Covid-19 pandemic saw a tremendous rise in the demand for PPE kits which includes gloves, gowns, shoe covers, masks, eye protection devices, face shields, etc and consequently the industry and the government intervened to look on the various strategies for fulfilling the soaring production requirements to protect the health care workers from the menace of the Covid-19 virus. This opportunity could be explored by the Pharmacy institutes for providing practical training in production and Quality Assurance of PPE for the UG students especially B Pharm.

It is a high time to revisit the current structure of pharmacy education in context to pandemic preparedness and to ponder on the role of the Pharmacy Institutes to build a fleet of pharmacy professionals towards serving the millions fighting with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

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