The University of Queensland has been recognised for the calibre of its pharmacy training, receiving an Award for Programs that Enhance Learning at the 2012 Australian Awards for University Teaching in Canberra yesterday (Monday, 19 November 2012).
UQ’s SCRIPT program (Skills for Communicating and Relating in Pharmacy Training), offered to first-year pharmacy students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, was acknowledged as a unique offering among English language support programs.
SCRIPT is the result of multi-disciplinary collaboration between pharmacy academics from the UQ School of Pharmacy, specialist language teachers from the Institute of Continuing and TESOL Education (ICTE-UQ), and higher education experts from the UQ Teaching and Educational Development Institute (TEDI).
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Mick McManus congratulated the team at the School of Pharmacy, ICTE, and TEDI.
“Communication skills are critical to the pharmacy profession and this project is just such a terrific example of what can be achieved through working in a team and using an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to enrich the student learning experience,” Professor McManus said.
“From a more personal perspective, being a pharmacist myself, I can fully appreciate the wonderful work of Jacqui Bond (team leader) and her team.”
Project team leader Jacqueline Bond from the UQ School of Pharmacy said the program aimed to identify and address the language barrier issues for non-native English speakers, such as Australian colloquialisms, early on in their studies.
“Someone might tell a pharmacist they have a gut-ache, had a chunder, caught a wog, chucked a sickie, couldn’t eat brekkie or got bitten by mozzies,’’ said project team leader Jacqueline Bond from the UQ School of Pharmacy.
“These sayings can completely bamboozle student pharmacists from non-Australian backgrounds.
“It's vital that graduates have excellent communication skills when they enter the pharmacy profession, to ensure that medicines are used safely and effectively.”
Ms Bond said the program was established in 2008 to better prepare undergraduates for their experiential placements in pharmacies, and oral communication assessments, which begin in their first year of study.
“This program suits the needs of the students better than generic English courses because of the role-playing designed to simulate interactions between a pharmacist and a patient,” Ms Bond said.
“We teach students the type of colloquial language that Australian patients may use to communicate their symptoms, such as ‘I feel under the weather' or ‘I'm crook',” she said.
“Unlike other generic language courses, students in the SCRIPT program develop their competence using scenarios that have been customised specifically for pharmacy, like talking to patients about medications for coughs and colds and practicing pronunciation of drug names,” Ms Bond said.
She added with the School of Pharmacy located at the Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence (PACE) site, students struggled to attend English-language courses at the St Lucia campus and experienced timetable clashes.
“We arranged to run the workshops during gaps in the timetable and to bring the expert language teachers to us, so classes were conducted in familiar and accessible teaching spaces,” Ms Bond said.
The program has attracted an average of 26-56 student enrolments per year, comprising 8 to 24 per cent of the pharmacy student cohort.
Ms Bond said the comprehensive screening processes used to identify students with potential communication challenges followed by personal invitations to attend the training were effective strategies for targeting students most in need.
Ms Bond said the voluntary program also has a high student retention rate.
“It’s a big adjustment for international students,” Ms Bond said.
“They come to a new country, new culture, new academic system and are away from friends and family.
“Because we talk about taboo topics and help them understand Australian slang many of the students report feeling supported, confident and connected.
“So, the program has wider benefits than language support.
“We believe it’s a vital component of the first year experience.”
The SCRIPT team:
School of Pharmacy: Ms Jacqueline Bond, A/Prof Lynne Emmerton, Ms Leigh McKauge, A/Prof Kathryn Steadman and ICTE-UQ: Ms Mary Cole, Ms Michele Feinberg, Ms Alex Rossi, Ms Marg Cannell and TEDI: Dr Wendy Green, Ms Terrilyn Sweep.
For more information contact: Jacqui Bond of the School of Pharmacy, +61 7 3346 1982 and firstname.lastname@example.org.