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The foundation training year: understanding the new requirements

If you are a foundation trainee pharmacist supervisor, it is important to understand the new requirements from the GPhC.

If you are due to take on a foundation trainee pharmacist in 2022/23, it is important to plan ahead and understand the new requirements from the GPhC. So what are the key changes to be made aware of? By Noma Al-Ahmad from training provider ProPharmace.

The foundation training year, which replaces the pre-registration year, requires trainee pharmacists to undertake 52 weeks of trainng under the supervsion of a designated supervisor. The training year can take place in one setting or be split between different practice settings such as community, hospital pharmacy, general practice, pharmaceutical industry and academia. 

The GPhC’s new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists introduced some key changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for future roles, requiring them to play a greater role in providing clinical care from their first day of joining the register.

The new terminology explained:

  • The pre-registration year is now known as the foundation training year
  • Pre-registration trainees are now known as trainee pharmacists
  • Pre-registration tutors are now designated supervisors
  • Interim learning outcomes have replaced the previous performance standards

Getting your training site approved

The first step to be able to offer foundation training is to ensure that your site meets GPhC requirements. In order to do this, you are required to complete an application for provision of pharmacist foundation training.  

The deadline to submit a training accreditation application for a trainee starting in the summer of 2022 is April 1. Any applications sent after this date may take up to eight weeks to be processed – so applications should be submitted on time in order to avoid delays to your trainee’s start date.

As part of the application, you are required to submit a training plan that provides a structure to meet all the required interim learning outcomes and can be used to engage with the trainee pharmacist throughout their foundation training year.  

The interim learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills and attributes a trainee pharmacist must demonstrate by the end of their foundation training year.

The training plan should ensure that trainee pharmacists have opportunities to learn from a range of people in different practice environments. Practice supervisors involved in trainee pharmacist development play a key role in supporting you to plan appropriate activities to meet the necessary learning outcomes. 

Although you may wish to develop your own training plan, this requires careful planning and can be time-consuming. Many employers choose to follow an overarching training plan, such as one provided by the employer or training provider. ProPharmace, for example, offers a full training site approval service, which includes the provision of bespoke training plans and approval with the GPhC.

What are the requirements for a supervisor?

To become a designated supervisor you must:

  • Be a registered pharmacist in Great Britain
  • Have been registered for three years or more
  • Have been practising in the sector, or a related  sector, of pharmacy in which you wish to supervise. 

If you have (or have previously had) any conditions or restrictions placed on your practice, you will be assessed according to the GPhC designated supervisor suitability policy.   

The GPhC has strengthened the requirements in the new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists. Standard 9 focuses on supervision during the foundation training year, with criteria 9.5 specifically focusing on supervisors’ training and experience: 

"All supervisors must be trained and appropriately experienced to act as supervisors. Everyone supporting trainees must take into account the GPhC’s guidance. People carrying out assessments of the foundation training year or being involved in trainees’ sign-off must be appropriately trained, qualified and competent to assess the competence of trainee pharmacists". 

Many designated supervisors find themselves accepting a supervisory role without having prior training or preparation for it. It is therefore important to address your own learning needs and consider the training programmes available. 

As a designated supervisor you have overall responsibility for supervising a trainee pharmacist, ensuring they are making the necessary progress against the interim learning outcomes and signing them off as competent at the end of the year. 

You are expected to spend at least 28 hours a week over four days of contact time with your trainee. Some supervisors enter a joint-designated supervising arrangement where the responsibility for supervision and contact time is shared – useful if the designated supervisor works limited hours or if the training is split between different sectors of practice or training sites. 

These arrangements have become more popular as they allow shared decision-making based on a trainee’s progress and performance. Regular communication between supervisors is key to ensuring a successful training year for the trainee pharmacist concerned.

In the next section of this article we look at some of the key skills needed for the designated supervisor role.

“As a supervisor you are responsible for coaching, supporting and overseeing your trainee while they are learning new skills”

Right learning environment 

One of the key roles of a supervisor is to create the right learning environment, ensuring trainees feel welcome and valued while also safeguarding the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public. The learning needs of trainees must therefore be balanced with the requirements of providing a pharmacy service so that patient safety is not compromised while also ensuring that a trainee is performing at the appropriate level for their competence and within their scope of practice. 

As a supervisor you are responsible for coaching, supporting and supervising your trainee while they are learning new skills. The level of supervision you apply will change throughout the year as your trainee develops their skills, confidence and competence. 

It is also important to embed a culture where trainees learn from incidents and feedback, where you identify risks and concerns, and challenge poor practice and behaviours. 

Providing your trainee pharmacist with an effective induction at the start of their training year is fundamental to ensuring a successful 12 months ahead. This involves getting to know the individual and encouraging open communication from the outset by discussing your expectations of them and what they can expect from you. 

Trainees will have different starting points and any induction should take into account your trainee’s level of competence and be specific to their individual learning needs. An effective induction provides a stable foundation for a good supervisor-learner relationship. 

Trainee pharmacists are increasingly required to work within multiprofessional teams and will have access to a range of role models. It is important to highlight to a trainee the other people who may be involved in their supervision, such as practice supervisors, support staff and healthcare professional colleagues. 

As the designated supervisor, you will be required to work collaboratively with colleagues, gaining the co-operation of practice supervisors to foster learning autonomy. However, while practice supervisors may oversee trainees for an agreed period, as the designated supervisor you have overall responsibility at all times.

Facilitating learning

Facilitating learning is a key aspect of your role as supervisor. Creating learning opportunities and choosing appropriate teaching methods suitable to your clinical setting will ensure you are providing a high quality training experience. 

At the start of a placement, you should allow additional time for supervision, coaching and mentoring. As trainees grow in experience, you should encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning. Supervisors can help trainees to develop by setting SMART learning objectives (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed).

Giving feedback

Giving effective feedback is an important skill for a supervisor that is acquired through repeated practice and reflection. Informal feedback should be given on a day-to-day basis in relation to specific events. Formal feedback is usually planned as part of a regular progress review. 

There are a number of models that can be used to structure feedback, but whatever model you choose to follow, any feedback should be timely, constructive and evidence-based. 

It is vital to ensure that feedback is aligned with the overall learning outcomes, teaching session or clinical activity in which the learner is engaged, and that you are clear about the outcome you wish to see, which is ultimately improvement of a performance or behaviour. You should also give a trainee the opportunity to give you feedback on your role as supervisor.

Assessment and monitoring

As the designated supervisor, it is your responsibility to ensure you monitor and assess your trainee’s progress against the interim learning outcomes throughout the year. These assessments should be accurately documented. 

Assessments should be fair and objective, and evaluate whether the trainee is meeting the required learning outcomes. You should provide follow-up feedback and act on areas where sufficient progress has not been made by supporting them with an action plan. 

Formal progress reviews should be carried out at weeks 13, 26 and 39, and a final declaration should be signed at the end of the year. The decision to sign off a trainee pharmacist must be made by more than one person. It should be based on evidence and confirm that a trainee has achieved all the interim learning outcomes at the level described within the GPhC standards, and that they have demonstrated competence appropriate to a newly registered pharmacist.

Understanding the key principles of assessments is essential to be able to carry out this task effectively. Miller’s Triangle illustrates how workplace-based assessments relate to the assessment of clinical competence. 

Knowledge and skills develop in an ascending order such that trainees will begin their professional development at the bottom of the triangle. For the foundation training year, most learning outcomes must be demonstrated at the 'Does' level of Miller’s Triangle at the apex. 

Working collaboratively with colleagues to monitor and support progression and foster the autonomy of your trainee by making use of feedback from practice supervisors will enable you to make a fair and objective assessment of their development.

For pharmacy training sites in England, Health Education England has introduced a strategy designed to support practice-based assessment against the interim learning outcomes for the foundation training year. The assessment strategy provides an overview for both trainee pharmacists and designated supervisors.

Supporting trainees

Trainee pharmacists may require additional support during the year to achieve their full potential. In addition, you may be required to make adjustments for trainees with particular needs, such as those with dyslexia, physical impairments or who are the subject of extenuating circumstances. 

Whether the support is pastoral or professional, as a designated supervisor you should be in a position to identify problems or difficulties that may be affecting your trainee’s progression and take reasonable steps to address requests for support. 

Summary

It is vital that trainee pharmacists receive high quality training in a safe learning environment. The role of a designated supervisor is fundamental to ensuring that the foundation training year is delivered to optimum effect. It is essential that supervisors have the necessary skills as well as the opportunities to develop themselves to undertake this important role.

Noma Al-Ahmad is managing director of ProPharmace and is responsible for overseeing over 500 trainee pharmacists across training sites in community pharmacy and primary care. She is also programme director for Health Education England's practice and educational supervisor training schemes. Details of the free training days can be found at: 

References are available from the Editor on request. 

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