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Introducing the framework on which you can build your pharmacy career

Royal Pharmaceutical Society members now have access to a new tool to guide their professional development at a foundation level of practice.

The launch of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Faculty gave pharmacists a platform to guide their professional development into advanced pharmacy practice. But one could argue that, for the profession to be able to recognise what advanced level practice looks like, it needs to define the benchmark upon which individuals can build. The Foundation Pharmacy Framework, launched this week by the RPS, aims to do just that.   

“We want the FPF to be the gold standard reference point for the foundations of a pharmacist’s practice,” says Catherine Duggan, RPS director for professional development and support. “We know from talking to pharmacists in the first few days or weeks of practice, and those well into their career, that when you come out of your preregistration training you are absolutely fit to practise, but what you do not have the road map to where next and how to consolidate.”

“This is why previous frameworks for general level practice were developed,” adds Dr Duggan — referring to the General Level Framework, which was originally developed by the Competency Development and Evaluation Group and forms the basis of the FPF. Although the GLF has been validated across pharmacy sectors and it features in many clinical pharmacy diploma programmes, its use is not widespread and many practitioners — particularly those in community practice — do not have access to it. “We knew that the GLF was regarded as a good starting point, but we also knew that it needed some simplification and further explanation. We have pared it down and developed the Foundation Pharmacy Handbook to be used alongside it,” says Dr Duggan.

Delyth James is programme director of the MSc in pharmacy clinical practice for community and primary care at Cardiff University. She says: “Having a revision in the past year has been useful in bringing [the GLF] up to date. The intention is that the new FPF will be reviewed and refreshed annually — so we know that we will always have a framework that is current and reflects the practice of the profession.”

The framework at a glance

The FPF comprises four clusters: patient and pharmaceutical care; professional practice; personal practice; and management and organisation. Each cluster contains a number of competencies that describe the behaviours and skills that pharmacists need to do their job (see Figure). Each competency is accompanied by a set of behavioural statements that explain how that competency is recognised.

 The Foundation Pharmacy Framework is a collection of competencies based around four clusters
The Foundation Pharmacy Framework is a collection of competencies based around four clusters

An evaluation grid helps practitioners identify whether they think they meet each competency by asking them to state often they behave in a certain way — consistently, usually, sometimes or rarely. They are encouraged to collect evidence and examples to support their reasoning.
“I think self-evaluation can be difficult,” comments Victoria Bray, senior rotational pharmacist at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, “particularly in the early years of your career; because up until then you will have been assessed by someone else.”

Dr James agrees that the process can be quite daunting for practitioners at first. She says: “It is important that they have a go [at filling out the evaluation grid]. This helps them get their head around it. When they have completed the self-assessment twice, and once they understand the purpose of the framework and how it can help identify their learning needs, the penny drops.”

Multiple applications

Dr James believes that from an educator’s point of view the FPF is an incredibly useful resource. “It forms part of a reflective portfolio that spans across the two years of the diploma, so in many ways it is the spine to the curriculum.”

According to the Foundation Pharmacy Handbook, the FPF can not only be used to underpin post-registration training programmes, as described by Dr James, but it provides a link between training and practice, too.

Dr James has around 10 years’ experience of using the GLF as an educator and was involved in the redevelopment of the FPF. “A framework provides clarity for newly qualified pharmacists in terms of what is expected of them as a pharmacist in those first years of practice,” she explains. “It can also be used by people who are well established but who have never had a framework to guide their development and those who are returning to practice after a gap in their career.”

Helping individuals identify gaps in knowledge and skills and to pinpoint training and development needs is one of the primary uses of the FPF, according to the RPS. It facilitates continuing professional development and can help lead the way to advanced practice.

“My understanding is that the FPF should be used as a development tool rather than an assessment tool,” remarks Miss Bray, who has been using the GLF as part of her postgraduate studies towards a diploma in clinical pharmacy.

“Foundation practice is so broad and quite scary,” she continues. “There are many different directions that you can go and so much to learn. You need a structure to reassure you that you are making progress and to identify areas where you are lacking. We all have mandatory CPD to do and [the FPF] should be used as part of that cycle rather than separate from it.”

Rob Darracott, chairman of the Frameworks Oversight Group and chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, agrees: “Professionals need to be self-reflective; what the RPS wants is for practitioners to be more in charge of their own professional development. Frameworks are useful for driving improvement and the FPF is one of the support tools that can help practitioners do that.”

There is also the suggestion that the FPF may be used to support “continuing fitness to practise”. “Revalidation is coming,” warns Mr Darracott. “First and foremost I think these frameworks can support practitioners not only in their career development but also in demonstrating to the regulator that they know what they are doing and that they are fit and competent to do so.”

The big roll-out

Now the FPF has been launched, the RPS plans to test it over the next 12 months to ensure validity and applicability across sectors. “We will be particularly looking at making sure it is fit for purpose across industry, academia and those in education and training roles … with a particular focus on community practice,” Dr Duggan tells The Journal.

Mr Darracott suggests that, for many people, the FPF will come as something that is quite new. “The big challenge is how we get community colleagues to understand that frameworks can be helpful to them on an individual level. We are aware that we are introducing this as a concept to many practitioners. The framework itself is simple and the handbook that goes with it is designed to help people recognise where they might be on the continuum.”

The FPF forms part of the development of a larger foundation programme from the RPS that will support practitioners in their development from registration through foundation practice and onwards into the Faculty. The release of more tools and resources (such as an intervention log to document contributions to patient care and a platform on which individuals can build a portfolio) is planned for later in 2014.

Dr James suggests that individuals who have never used a professional development framework before should speak to someone who has.
“I would also encourage people to form small groups and to have a chat about the framework to bring it to life. One thing people often struggle with is finding the evidence to support their level of competence. So just sharing examples with each other, for example medicines reviews they have conducted, can be useful,” she says.

And for those who are supporting individuals in their foundation level practice, Dr James believes it is important to clarify expectations and to encourage people to be honest about evaluating their competence.
So what can individuals do now to get started on this journey? “Read the whole thing,” advises Miss Bray. “Understand where it comes from and why it is there. Try not to just see it as a burden or an extra thing that you have to do — get into that mindset before you start.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11133219

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