Inclusion of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) teaching into pharmacy curricula – a cross-sectional survey of Australian and New Zealand Schools/Department of pharmacy
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Background: With the increased usage of CAM worldwide comes the demand for its integration into health professional education. As primary care providers pharmacists are at the forefront, providing information and guidance to patients about safe and effective use of all medicines, including complementary medicines. Surveys of Australian community pharmacists show that their CAM training does not meet their professional needs and that their lack of suitable training prevents information provision on CAM. Similarly, student surveys mostly show that graduates don't feel comfortable with CAM counselling. Although most pharmacy Schools in Australia and New Zealand offer some form of CAM training, the extent to which CAM is taught and integrated varies widely due to the fact that its integration is not a unifying requirement and is handled quite differently at amongst institutions. This study evaluates the scope of CAM teaching in pharmacy programs in Australia and New Zealand's Schools of Pharmacy. Methods: All 18 Schools/Departments offering Pharmacy programs in New Zealand and Australia were invited to participate in a 30-item cross-sectional survey in 2010. Ethical clearance for the study was obtained through Griffith University's Human Research Ethics Committee. Survey Data analysis was performed using SPSS version 18.0. Descriptive statistics such as frequencies, means standard deviations and ranges were used to summarise the data. For the Likert responses, all responses with any degree of agreement were grouped together as positive responses, and all responses with any degree of disagreement were grouped together as negative response. T tests and chi square were used to analyse differences as appropriate. Results were considered significant when the p value was less than 0.05. Results: Ten Schools responded, 9 from Australia and 1 from a New Zealand. All except 1 reported integrating CAM teaching into the curriculum. Three Schools stated that they will be changing content, but no school was going to decrease the CAM content. During the whole pharmacy degree on average only 22h (including lectures, workshops, tutorials etc.) were taught on CAM with a larger proportion of Schools (67%) offering less than 22h of CAM content. Similarly, in the majority of Schools CAM content was included in less than 50% of assessment items. Only 5 Schools included CAM tasks into placement exercises. A thorough content analysis showed that the CAM content varied significantly between Schools in some areas, and that content currently taught was quite different from what the participating academics thought was essential. As CAM information sources the majority of Schools recommended professional pharmacy reference books and general websites rather than specific evidence-based CAM websites. Academics responsible for CAM teaching had very different levels of employment and expertise with only one School reporting on a dedicated chair in the CAM discipline. Participating academics did not agree on the necessity of preceptor and school staff CAM training. Conclusion: The findings in this study suggest that more consideration should be given to appropriate and comprehensive CAM content in pharmacy curricula across Australia and New Zealand to meet the professional and care needs of pharmacists and their patients, respectively. At a minimum it should provide the impetus for an open debate regarding what level of CAM education is sufficient in pharmacy curricula.
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Medicine, Nursing and Health Curriculum and Pedagogy