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December 15, 2021
Addressing inconsistent pharmacy practice in Alberta.

Consistently inconsistent. It’s one of the issues with pharmacy practice in Alberta that Council identified during its strategic planning process. While ACP has minimum standards which must be met by all pharmacy teams, the patient experience can vary greatly from one pharmacy to another.

To establish more consistency in pharmacy practice, Council developed this goal as part of its 2021-25 strategic plan: All applicants are qualified and ready to practise when they become pharmacists or pharmacy technicians in Alberta.

To achieve this goal, ACP will ensure that all registrants applying for the clinical pharmacist or pharmacy technician register have the competencies necessary to practise within Alberta’s health system.

One of the initiatives that will ensure this goal is reached is to evolve and strengthen ACP’s Structured Practical Training (SPT) programs for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

SPT is a supervised, competency-based training program that allows provisional pharmacists and provisional pharmacy technicians opportunity to practise clinical skills, develop decision-making capabilities, and apply knowledge in real pharmacy practices, under the direction of a preceptor.

The preceptor is responsible for not only teaching and mentoring provisional registrants, but also observing them demonstrating the behaviours ACP expects of practising pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. In other words, the preceptor must witness provisional registrants using critical thinking and problem-solving skills while serving the patient in front of them, applying the standards and Code of Ethics, and living ACP’s tenets of professionalism. Once a provisional registrant has demonstrated these skills and behaviours and has met or exceeded an acceptable level of performance based on entry-to-practice competencies, the preceptor is able to confirm completion of the SPT program.

While the activities that provisional registrants must perform within the program exist, the program itself must be strengthened.

“The training and assessment of our provisional registrants needs to be enhanced to ensure our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at entry to practice are able to consistently provide the public high-quality experiences,” said Debbie Lee, ACP’s Registration Director. 

This means that there must be more standardization of not only the SPT program, but also with how preceptors fulfil their role and how they evaluate provisional registrants. Preceptors may need training before assuming this important role to ensure they understand their responsibilities and ACP’s expectations when evaluating provisional registrants. A standardized, consistent evaluation model will allow us to be more confident that provisional registrants admitted to the clinical pharmacist and pharmacy technician registers are ready to practise.

A more robust SPT will also allow provisional registrants to consolidate their learning, gain awareness of clinical tools and supports, and use them to interact with diverse patient populations.

ACP deputy registrar Kaye Moran says solidifying entry-to-practice requirements will ensure that new pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can enter any type of pharmacy practice in Alberta with more self-assurance and a better chance at success.

“Achieving success will allow pharmacy professionals to have more confidence in their colleagues,” explained Kaye. “Whether it’s a new team member who’s joining their pharmacy or someone that they are collaborating with, the experience will be consistent.”

Most importantly, regardless of a registrant’s time in practice or path to their profession, Albertans will benefit by being able to experience a consistent level of high-quality pharmacy care.