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Laura McEwen-Smith explains why enhancing tutor training to support workforce collaboration is so important

Laura McEwen-Smith
Laura McEwen-Smith

TRAINING is important for tutors because [it’s easy to see a] pre-reg as additional help, and forget their needs. Training reinforces the fact that they need attention–all trainees are different and needs are different too. [1]

Isn’t it peculiar that, in contrast to the medical, nursing and dentistry professions, there is no formal approval process or assessment for a pharmacist to become a trainer of freshly graduated preregistration trainee?  What effect does this lack of quality control have on our trainee experiences, and of course the tutors themselves?

Recent evidence suggests that pharmacist trainees who completed their training in the community sector (approximately two-thirds of pharmacy trainees) are more likely to be dissatisfied with the experience, with the level of satisfaction amongst dissatisfied trainees lowest in the areas of ‘quality of support’ and ‘quality of educational supervision’during the year [2].

My colleague Atif Shamim recently wrote about how Health Education Kent Surrey and Sussex are working alongside the Association of Independent Multiples (AIM) and LPCs to develop a project whereby community based preregistration pharmacists will spend a part of their year in a GP surgery, and vice versa for GP trainees.  It is important that the quality expectations around trainer competence are aligned between these two healthcare disciplines and so, in the background, we are also working on developing a transferable model for approval and appraisal ofthe preregistration pharmacist tutors who will be supporting the trainees on the project.

To inform and underpin this work, we undertook a scoping exercise to establish the current training and ongoing development arrangements for preregistration tutors in four AIM organisations and a handful of local independent pharmacies. 36 questionnaires were completed, producing a response rate of 61 per cent from the preregistration pharmacist tutors invited to participate.

In terms of initial training in support of their preregistration tutor role, 61 per cent of the respondents had not undertaken any formal training, with 27 per cent of these having done nothing at all. For those that had completed training, 62 per cent were unsatisfied that it helped develop their knowledge and skills; with 58 per cent unable to identify any permanent performance improvements as a result.

My reference has purely been through the GPhC pre-registration manual. It has always surprised me how easy it is to become a pre-reg tutor with little monitoring or check on suitability or standard of training. I would welcome regional study days and annual refresher days to keep abreast of current developments and perhaps some form of recognition as a tutor. [1]

The most notable gaps in training content were identified as ‘supporting trainees in difficulty’ (25 per cent dissatisfied), equality and diversity (17 per cent dissatisfied) and ‘setting and reviewing training plans (14 per cent dissatisfied).  A common view amongst respondents was that a model of appraisal or review should be made available and 87 per cent agreed this should involve a refresher or development session, 93 per cent agreed that trainee feedback should be included, and 71 per cent thought that peer review would be valuable.

Fifty per cent of respondents currently felt unsupported or only partially supported to carry out their role as a preregistration tutor and, when asked to make suggestions for developing tutor training and appraisal, three key areas for improvement could be defined from the comments: “training” with 60 per cent, 40 per cent for “networking” and 15 per cent asked for “better recognition”. 

I would like a structured approach from my employer, meeting towards the end of one year in preparation for the next”. [1]

There were mixed feelings over the future-proofing of tutor competence; some felt that preregistration tutor competency should be reviewed annually while others considered that assessment every 2-3 years was appropriate.  In all cases, the informants reported that training and development models needed to link in with continuing fitness to practice and a common view was that there was a need for a competency framework based upon GPhC guidance for preregistration tutors.

Are you a preregistration tutor? Do you feel that our findings are congruent with your experiences of training and development? Undeniably, this small sample size may not reflect accurately the opinions and experiences of tutors across the entire community pharmacy sector; however the findings do raise some intriguing questions regarding the nature and extent of what is available to preregistration tutors in terms of training and development opportunities.

Work is currently underway field testing components of the training and development model proposed as a result of this work.  I look forward to sharing the highs, lows and most importantly the outcomes following a full pilot! 

Laura McEwen-Smith is the Principal Pharmacy Technician at Health Education Kent Surrey and Sussex Pharmacy Education,  Project Lead for the CEPN Tutor Training and Development Project and Specialist Preregistration Pharmacist Programme Support.  

Follow Laura @ljmcewens

[1] Health Education Kent Surrey and Sussex. Community Education Providers Network Preregistration Pharmacy Project: Pre-Registration Tutor Training and Appraisal Scoping Report. November 2014
[2] General Pharmaceutical Council. Analysis of Trainee Dissatisfaction -2012/13 Preregistration Trainees. October 2014


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