The Pharmacy Practice Preceptorship Programme is made up
of two 6-week student attachments to preceptors who are practising
pharmacists after their second and third year final examinations.
It also fulfils in part the statutory pre-registration training
requirement for admittance to the Pharmacists’ Register
The programme provides an opportunity for experiential learning
in work environments of different pharmacy practice sectors
in order to partially fulfil the following objectives:
- Gain an understanding of the practice of pharmacy and
to learn more about career opportunities available to pharmacy
- Acquire and apply some knowledge, experience, and skills
to achieve professional competency in pharmacy.
- Begin to develop high standards of ethical, legal, and
- Begin to develop the commitment to keep abreast with
developments and maintain professional competency.
The programme comprises the Core and Sectoral components
of the Pre-registration Competency-Based Training Programme
developed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The
Core component addresses the generic and critical aspects
of pharmacy practice, i.e. the professional (behavioural-based)
elements and the technical (task-based) elements. The assessment
of the student for the professional elements is 70% and 20%
for the technical elements. The minor Sectoral Component provides
a set of sector-specific experience in community pharmacy,
polyclinic pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, industrial pharmacy,
the National Pharmaceutical Administration, or the pharmaceutical
industry. This amounts to only 10% of the overall assessment.
A set of guidelines for the students and preceptors was formulated
and revised after discussion with senior pharmacists. The
students and preceptors were briefed on the programme.
63 pharmacy students participated in the programme under
the wings of 34 community pharmacists for the first time in
May 1999. Each student furnished a log book and a 2000-word
report after the programme. The preceptors submitted evaluation
reports on each student to the NUS coordinator. The overall
impact of the programme was further observed when the students
returned to the classroom with exuberance and enthusiasm.
The following extracts from students’ reports offer
candid feedback on four important aspects of the programme.
A. The programme
- …good timing for programme to start during the May/July
holidays, after studying core subjects e.g. pharmacology,
pathology, physiology, and pharmacy law. I am able to apply
whatever I have learnt and to correlate experience with
examples cited in class.
- Favourable aspects of the programme:
- choice of location
- flexible working hours
- choice of period of attachment during vacation, any 6
- possibility of mutual exchange of preceptor before programme
B. The Experience
- After receiving an education, which is heavy in spoon-feeding
for 1½ decades, I am starting to learn about how
to learn. I hope I have not started too late.
- This programme has honed my interpersonal skills through
daily interaction with my colleagues, preceptor, and the
regular flow of customers. Every customer provides a new
case for study as every individual has dissimilar needs
and reacts in a different way.
- Greatest challenge was to communicate with customers
in dialects and languages one is not fluent in.
- We not only learnt from observation, but also put skills
into practice after gaining sufficient confidence via role-playing.
- I felt the full impact of a pharmacist’s frontline
influence on a customer when I realised the vast amount
of options that are available for just cold remedies. Good
pharmacy service ensures that the customer gets the right
medication and hence a speedier recovery.
- I realised that in order to provide good patient counselling,
the pharmacist needs to know the physiology and pathology
of the human body and the pharmacology of different medications.
This made me appreciate the rigorous programme that pharmacy
students have to undergo at NUS.
- I learnt how to solve problems and handle situations
the correct and professional way by observing how my preceptor
dealt with these problems, by listening to experiences of
my preceptor and pupil pharmacists and by reflecting on
my own experiences while working at the pharmacy.
- …doing things totally unrelated to pharmacy e.g.
price-tagging & cashiering.
- I thought work would be more relaxing and less stressful
than being a student—sad to say I was very very wrong—as
a practising pharmacist—it is even more stressful
and you get to be assessed by a greater number of people.
C. The Length of the Programme
- I reached a ‘plateau’ after a steep learning
curve in the first 3 weeks—my preceptor pointed out
that the plateau is an illusion as my knowledge was still
- Duration is just right, not too long to drive us up the
wall…not too stifling. Everyday is like a small discovery
trip because there is so much to learn.
D. The Preceptor
- When it is not too hectic, my preceptor would take time
to go through the medication profile of certain interesting
cases… She would provoke me to think and encourage
independence and initiative in learning with the aid of
- Getting the right preceptor during this attachment is
very very important. It is the factor that either makes
it or breaks it.
- Preceptor allowed me to adopt a pro-active attitude towards
learning and she did this by giving me surprise quizzes
for which I had to find the answer on my own and by letting
me handle a variety of tasks, even if it meant learning
through mistakes. In fact, how much a student would gain
from the programme would depend on how much initiative he
has in the first place.
- We had discussions on health topics, covering the medical,
ethical and financial issues. This was enlightening, as
my preceptor recounted real-life examples.
- She showed us the ropes of the trade without any reservations
and with an openness of her knowledge for which I am extremely
grateful… She exuded enthusiasm and dedication in