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New training in store for pharmacists

  Friday, 27 l 05 l 2011  Source: The Straits Times   
By: Poon Chian Hui

Plan for rotation-based system for rookies so they can learn about different areas of work 

pharmacistsWHEN Ms Doreen Tan, 36, first entered the industry a decade ago, pharmacists were “stuck behind the dispensary counter”. Now, a typical work day for Ms Tan, principal clinical pharmacist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, involves visiting patients in the wards and teaching other colleagues. Over the years, the role of pharmacists has evolved – and so have their training methods.

More changes are in the pipeline. By around 2015, new pharmacists will be put on a rotation-based training system so they can learn about different areas of pharmacy work before getting registered, said the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) chief pharmacist Lita Chew yesterday. The review process has been completed and the Singapore Pharmacy Council is now discussing with both public and private hospitals as well as medical institutions on how to implement this, added Assistant Professor Chew. Currently, pharmacists can work only at one institution for the entire nine-month period of their pre-registration training. They have to complete this stint in order to get registered as pharmacists here.

Prof Chew was speaking ahead of a ceremony yesterday at the College of Medicine Building to commemorate the entry of 162 new pharmacists into the register. They were among 265 pharmacists who took the pledge of commitment to the profession at the annual event. The number of registered pharmacists in Singapore has grown from 1,300 five years ago to 1,962 today. But the numbers have not kept up with demand, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi, who spoke at yesterday’s ceremony.  “(The number) is still not sufficient to meet the demands of the health-care and biomedical sectors,” he said. “The ageing population, rising health-care costs and innovative developments in science, technology and medication mean that there will be new roles for pharmacists to fulfil.” Besides boosting the number of pharmacists, the quality of training also needs to be stepped up.

Mr Wu Tuck Seng, president of the Singapore Pharmacy Council, pointed out that there is a need for more well-rounded training for pharmacists as they are now wearing more hats. With rotation training, new pharmacists will be able to learn different skills across areas like mentoring others, patient care and clinical work. In line with this, MOH has also started reviewing last month how it can broaden the job scope of pharmacy technicians, who support pharmacists in their work, such as in the packing and labelling of medicines. “With the evolving role of pharmacists, they may need greater back-up,” said Prof Chew.

Ms Christine Teng, who is the principal clinical pharmacist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, pointed out that the rate of new medicines entering the market is “crazy”. “It takes a lot of time and commitment to keep up,” said Ms Teng. And with more pharmacists entering the industry every year, the rotation system, for example, will ensure everyone gets properly trained, said Mr Wu. About 160 new pharmacists enter the register every year, and this is likely to rise over the next decade. Said Mr Wu: “Our worry is that based on the number of hospitals and training institutions we have now, it’s not possible to take them all in. “So we wanted to adopt what the doctors are doing in terms of rotation.”

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