Service learning in pharmacy: Opportunities for student learning and service delivery
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High patient load and understaffing in public health care facilities preclude the provision of optimal pharmaceutical services in South Africa. A Service Learning in Pharmacy (SLIP) programme for the University of the Western Cape's final year pharmacy students was implemented in health care facilities to assist in service provision. Students rotated between a pharmacotherapy (patient-oriented) and pharmaceutical formulation (product-oriented) activities to develop skills in prescription analysis, manufacturing and packaging of hospital pharmaceuticals. Structured focus group sessions were held with students and pharmacists to assess the integrated service learning experiences. Student feedback was positive, as the 'real world' experiences enabled them to adapt to intense work pressures, developed a sense of 'personal responsibility' towards patient health and they were sensitized to issues of social injustice. Students became competent in prescription analyses, counseling on medication use, manufacturing and pre-packing procedures. Pharmacists fully supported increased student involvement in the health services. Service learning in pharmacy schools is needed to contextualize learning and to address health care needs in South Africa.