Pharmacy curricula prepare students to be competent pharmacists and members of our profession. With that competence comes a responsibility to advocate on the behalf of the profession. A survey was administered to determine the impact of a political advocacy elective on the willingness of student pharmacists to be advocates for their profession.
An elective in political advocacy is offered to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year pharmacy students at University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy since 2008. The elective course objectives include recognizing different forms of advocacy, discussion regarding current events related to pharmacy both on the local and national level, understanding the legislative process, and identifying advocacy efforts of state and national pharmacy associations. A survey was developed to assess the students’ perceived knowledge of the issues affecting the pharmacy profession, their willingness to vote in an election, their current level of advocacy, and their likelihood for advocacy after graduation. The survey also assessed the students’ current leadership activities, involvement in local and national pharmacy organizations, and prior experience with professional pharmacy issues. The survey was voluntarily administered to the student body. Comparisons were made between those students who were enrolled in the elective class and the student body as a whole. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to examine the results of the survey.
Of the 462 students, 100 completed the online survey for a response rate of 21.6%. Students who took the elective rated their knowledge of current issues significantly higher than those who did not. A greater percentage of students who took the course reported participating in advocacy activities within the last month compared to those who did not (41.2% vs. 14.8%). Finally, the students who took the course expressed significantly more personal responsibility for being politically active compared to those who did not take the course. These results demonstrate the need for increased advocacy training and education in the pharmacy curriculum. Encouraging advocacy begins before graduation.
After reviewing the literature, there seems to be more information in the literature regarding advocacy in the curriculum for other healthcare professionals. Increased advocacy in pharmacy curricula and increased efforts to disseminate information regarding advocacy in pharmacy course work is needed in the pharmacy literature.