With four years of experience to her name, Athira M had handled all the medicine that are in regular circulation. But for a recent upskilling programme, she would have sunk into the belief that she had almost all the knowledge, theoretical and practical, required to function as an effective pharmacist.
Athira, who works at a medical store in Kozhikode, was among pharmacists across India who had signed up for an online upskilling programme, iPHARMACY, offered by AstraZeneca India in association with Neethi, a Kerala state cooperative consumers federation limited company.
With focus on inventory management, good pharmacy practices, the art of customisation for patients and management of pharmacies during disruptions on the scale witnessed during the pandemic, the course created by a team of experts from AstraZeneca and their partners aims to bridge the knowledge gap in the industry.
The programme might have reached Kerala first, but many other states are already in line to receive it.
Dr. Anil Kukreja, Vice President — Medical Affairs and Regulatory, AstraZeneca India, reveals that more than 10,000 pharmacists from the states of Telangana and Karnataka have also enrolled for this four-module programme, being offered on the learning platform Moodle.
“We are also planning to roll out the programme with retail pharmacy chains like Apollo Pharmacy and hospital chains like Aster,” says Dr. Anil.
Dr Anil notes the programme first sensitises pharmacists to ask the vital questions. Asking these questions will make them a thinking pharmacist. The programme proceeds to give answers to these questions.
Besides the minutiae of running the pharmacy efficiently on a day-to-day basis — which would include inventory management — the programme deals with pharmacist-customer interactions.
Dr Anil points out that a pharmacist should know the questions from a customer that he should answer, and those he should not.
A participant who completes the e-learning module would be awarded a completion certificate by the European body of Continuing medical education (CME) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Academy.
J Jayaseelan, president of the Tamil Nadu State Pharmacy Council and executive member of National Board of Accreditation, observes a majority of pharmacists coming out of colleges are not industry-ready, which makes such programmes an absolute necessity.
Jayaseelan underlines that the Ministry of Skill Development and Pharma Associations are together closely working to bridge the knowledge gap, which includes a lack of soft skills. We need to upgrade curriculum to international standards, he adds.