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In support of the university’s efforts to nurture able communicators amongst our students, this bumper issue features articles on Developing Our Students’ Communication Skills. It includes introductions to upcoming initiatives by CDTL and the Centre for English Language Communication (CELC) to enhance our students’ ability to communicate effectively, and also features contributions from colleagues throughout NUS as well as from the industry, in which they will share communication skills courses or collaborations they are currently running in their respective domains and the challenges they face in helping their students develop these core skills.

October/November 2010, Vol. 13 No. 2 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
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Enhancing Effective Communication Among NUS Pharmacy Undergraduates – An Intercollegiate Collaboration
Associate Professor Chui Wai Keung and Ms Tan Mui Ling
Department of Pharmacy - Faculty of Science

Ms Goh Khong Phong, Happy and Ms Dara Leah Richard
Centre for English Language Communication (CELC)

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who possess domain knowledge in drug substances, medicinal products and patient-centred medication management that allow them a variety of career paths. They may seek employment in areas where they are responsible for a range of activities spanning patient care, regulatory affairs, pharmaceutical manufacturing, sales and marketing of health products, and many more. As with any other professional, it is essential that pharmacists be conversant in oral and written communication so that they may function optimally and effectively in their chosen working environment. To be more specific, pharmacists in their line of duty may be required to carry out a range of activities, including the following:

(a) Provide drug information to other healthcare professionals and patients.
(b) Give instructions/advice to patients.
(c) Make referrals to other healthcare professionals for follow-up consultation.
(d) Write scientific reports or magazine articles.
(e) Make oral presentations to the public or other healthcare professionals.
(f) Present results of studies on posters or PowerPoint presentations.
(g) Write standard operation procedures for pharmaceutical manufacturing processes.

In view of such requirements of a pharmacist, it is essential that Pharmacy undergraduates learn the skills and art of effective communication. Herein lies the motivation for the collaborative module between the Department of Pharmacy (DoP) and the Centre of English Language Communication (CELC)—SP1203 “Foundation in Effective Communication”. DoP began on the premise that it would be good to have a module that allows Pharmacy undergraduates to achieve the following learning outcomes:

(i) Write content-rich articles in a logical, systematic and evidence-based manner.
(ii) Be able to express opinions and make sound conclusions from evidence.
(iii) Write a concise technical article in laymen’s language.
(iv) Communicate scientific data in poster, fact sheet or pamphlet format.

As evident from the above list, DoP, as the domain expert, brings to the collaborative project the articulated communicative needs of the practitioner. From the perspective of CELC, the communication specialists, the collaborative module offers the opportunity to tailor a niche communication course that meets the needs of practitioners in a specific profession and where the lessons resonate with them. At the same time, CELC offers Pharmacy undergraduates an understanding into how their professional communication may be perceived by the lay person, and how the communication could be calibrated to achieve its purpose.

For choice of a subject, both DoP and CELC decided that the new collaborative module should focus on the theme of “patient safety”. Students would be directed to read and discover information pertaining to patient safety with respect to healthcare and drug therapy. Content experts from DoP would be invited to give students introductory lectures on specific topics related to the use of medications in safe and effective ways. Following the content lectures, students would be coached by CELC to complete a series of exercises, namely writing a fact sheet, designing a pamphlet for consumer education, writing an argumentative essay, conducting a small survey, and presenting the data in a poster.

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