Enablers and disablers to undertaking postgraduate education amongst community pharmacists

Jeremy Sokhi (Lead Author), Theresa Chibanda, James Desborough

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


While several postgraduate diplomas are available to community pharmacists their uptake is minimal. This situation was highlighted when the University of East Anglia (UEA) had difficulty filling 36 fees-free places made available on its postgraduate diploma to all practising community pharmacists within eastern England. The aim of the study was to explore the enablers and disablers to undertaking postgraduate education amongst community pharmacists and to explore what they believed to be the effects of undertaking a postgraduate diploma.

Approval was obtained from a UEA ethics committee. All community pharmacies in Essex were sent a letter inviting pharmacists to participate in a focus group. Follow-up telephone calls were made to non-responders and those expressing interest. Community pharmacists with or undertaking a postgraduate diploma or equivalent, and primary care and hospital pharmacists were excluded from participating. The intention was for purposive sampling to be used to ensure a diverse representation of views. However only 18 pharmacists consented, all of whom were invited to take part in one of two focus groups based on location and availability. A semi-structured topic guide produced for the focus groups included the following main questions: ‘What approaches have you taken to learning and development since qualifying?’; ‘What are the current issues while delivering pharmacy services in your practice?’; ‘Have you considered a postgraduate qualification such as a diploma?’ and ‘What one thing would make you more likely to undertake a postgraduate diploma?’ Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

Preliminary analysis identified four themes: continuing personal development (CPD), workplace pressure, barriers to postgraduate education and enablers of postgraduate education. Almost all participants expressed that their CPD tended to be driven by pharmacy services requirements, and those working for large multiples particularly felt their development was influenced by their employer’s business objectives; pharmacists working for independents enjoyed more control over the services delivered and thus their own development. Workplace pressure to achieve targets for which only minimal support was provided was felt by employees of large multiples; these pharmacists perceived a decreasing amount of control in their work and consequently less job satisfaction. Barriers to postgraduate education included financial cost, time commitment, lack of recognition and career progression on completion, and uncertainty about postgraduate diplomas’ relevance to practice. Enablers included the need for clear business, patient and/or personal (financial and/or career progression) benefits. Support to undertake postgraduate education in work-time and modular course designs were also potential enablers.

Results cannot be generalised as they are based on a small convenience sample with potential bias towards those interested in undertaking postgraduate education. Nevertheless some useful insights were gained. For these community pharmacists learning was primarily driven by immediate business needs and with significant barriers and without clear incentives postgraduate education was not a consideration. The development of strategies for post-registration career development has been recommended to maximise pharmacy’s contribution to the health of the nation1. This study suggests closer working between employers, academia and other stakeholders may be required to incorporate postgraduate education within these strategies.

1. Howe H, Wilson K. Review of post-registration career development: Next steps. Report to Medical Education England Board 2012
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2014
EventHealth Services Research & Pharmacy Practice Conference - University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Apr 20144 Apr 2014


ConferenceHealth Services Research & Pharmacy Practice Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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