Service-learning, “an educational methodology which combines community service with explicit academic learning objectives, preparation for community work, and deliberate reflection” (Gelmon et al 2006), is not often used in graduate education in pharmacy.
Over the past decade, the College of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada has provided a 4-month residency program in Drug Use Management and Policy for graduate students from a broad spectrum of faculties, including Community Health and Epidemiology, Health Informatics, Health Administration/Law, Library Science, Economics, Psychology, Health services Research, Interdisciplinary Studies and Pharmacy Administration.
Each resident is placed with a preceptor in a host organization and a faculty adviser from their academic department to develop and implement a drug use management and policy project identified by the host organization. A series of skills development seminars and workshops are provided to the residents at the outset of the program each year.
The research question
To determine the impact of a 4-month service-learning residency program in drug use management and policy on graduate students’ cognitive learning (e.g. translating theory, knowledge and skills into practice).
A self-report survey was conducted with residents using a validated 25-item service-learning assessment tool. Descriptive data was compiled and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software and statistical tests (e.g. Chi squares, ANOVA, etc.).
Thirty residents from 8 disciplines responded (92% response rate) to the self-reported survey. Thirty-seven percent were 35 or older; 60% were female; 67% were Masters Candidates at the time of their residency.
Over 94% agreed:
- the residency facilitated learning to plan/complete a research/policy project;
- the project increased awareness of decision maker needs;
- host organization placement presented opportunities to observe how academic courses apply in the real world
- the combining of an applied research/policy project with targeted skills seminars should be practiced in more university programs.
- agreed the residency enhanced their ability to communicate ideas in a decision making environment
- felt they could make a difference in the health care sector.
Over 75% agreed that they provided benefits to the host organization.
72% felt the residency improved their marketability upon graduation.
Participants of the Drug Use Management and Policy Residency Program gained knowledge, skills and understanding of applying their research skills to real world problems and the needs of decision makers. The instrument helped identity strengths of the program and areas for improvement.