Evaluation of a foundation degree for pharmacy technicians

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Information about the research activity
Foundation degrees (FDs) for pharmacy technicians combine academic and work-based learning to provide skills and knowledge for enhanced pharmacy technicians’ practice. Nine of these programmes have been developed nationwide since the introduction of the qualification in 2000. Only three of these FDs continue to run at the time of writing this report and low student numbers within these courses make their future uncertain. With a population of potential students in excess of 15,000 and increased demands for enhanced pharmacy technicians’ practice, lack of success of these FDs can be due to how the qualification is perceived.

This research represented the first systematic exploration of the perceptions of stakeholders with involvement in a FD for pharmacy technicians that evaluated one such programme: the FD in Medicines Management run by the University of Portsmouth. The study focused on a single course to provide an in-depth account of events and processes. It involved gathering the views of students, graduates, employers, and people involved in course delivery and development. The research had a dual purpose: to describe experiences and to feedback findings into pedagogic practice within the Portsmouth course.

Research questions
In order to carry out this evaluation, the following broad research questions were investigated:
• What do people think of the FD qualification?
• What is the experience of being involved with a FD like?
• What effect does a FD have on pharmacy technicians?
• What opportunities does a FD bring for role extension and development?
• Can a theoretical model be developed to represent relationships between the experiences of stakeholders involved in a FD?

Plan of Investigation
The project was carried out over a period of three years from September 2007 to June 2010. It followed a qualitative evaluation research approach. Data was collected from one-to-one and group interviews, which were recorded, transcribed verbatim and subject to thematic analysis. The analysis aimed to identify significant concepts, themes and categories, building a theoretical model that would represent relationships between the experiences of the stakeholders. Within each of these, different views were compared and contrasted.

Key findings
A theoretical model was developed that represents the relationships between the experiences of stakeholders involved in a FD for pharmacy technicians; a number of key themes were also found. Firstly, it was established that there was a general lack of awareness of the availability and scope of FDs. While study participants perceived them as valuable qualifications, they reported that often this was not the case within their workplace. FDs were considered demanding qualifications from a pedagogic point of view, as course content had to be continuously updated to reflect changes in practice. They contributed to the personal and professional development of pharmacy technicians and provided skills and knowledge to enable individuals to have more independent roles. Pharmacy technicians’ motivation to acquire skills and knowledge to improve patient care was the main driver for participation in a FD. The new capabilities of pharmacy technicians led to increased aspirations for the development of their role, which were not always fulfilled. Different factors were accountable for this, which merit further research in order to fully describe this phenomenon.

Action points
As a result of this research, the following action points were undertaken to improve pedagogic practice within the Portsmouth FD in Medicines Management:
• Development and implementation of a marketing strategy.
• Review and update of the programme syllabus.
• Implementation of new approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.
Date of AwardDec 2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Brown (Supervisor) & Jane Portlock (Supervisor)

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