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October 2000, Vol. 3 No. 5 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Student Responses to the Pharmacy Practice Preceptorship Programme
Assistant Professor Chan Sui Yung
Programme Coordinator, Department of Pharmacy

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 in Singapore.

The programme provides an opportunity for experiential learning in work environments of different pharmacy practice sectors in order to partially fulfil the following objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of the practice of pharmacy and to learn more about career opportunities available to pharmacy practitioners.

  2. Acquire and apply some knowledge, experience, and skills to achieve professional competency in pharmacy.

  3. Begin to develop high standards of ethical, legal, and professional conduct.

  4. 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

  1. …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.

  2. Favourable aspects of the programme:

    - choice of location

    - flexible working hours

    - choice of period of attachment during vacation, any 6 weeks

    - possibility of mutual exchange of preceptor before programme commenced

B. The Experience


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Greatest challenge was to communicate with customers in dialects and languages one is not fluent in.

  4. We not only learnt from observation, but also put skills into practice after gaining sufficient confidence via role-playing.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  1. …doing things totally unrelated to pharmacy e.g. price-tagging & cashiering.

  2. 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

  1. 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 very superficial.

  2. 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

  1. 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 available resources.

  2. Getting the right preceptor during this attachment is very very important. It is the factor that either makes it or breaks it.

  3. 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.

  4. We had discussions on health topics, covering the medical, ethical and financial issues. This was enlightening, as my preceptor recounted real-life examples.

  5. 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 the process.
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Setting Up the Department of Biological Sciences' Professional Placement Programme
Practical Training Scheme at the Departments of Building and Real Estate
The Applied Chemistry Professional Placement Programme
The Virtual Laboratory Platform as a Form of Internet-based Apprenticeship
Civil Service Internship Programme for Political Science Students
Internship for Arts Students in the Talent Development Programme ogramme
Apprenticeship in Postgraduate Orthodontic Training
Student Responses to the Pharmacy Practice Preceptorship Programme