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  • Phillip Ratliff, Backstory Educational Media

Engineering a Continuing Pharmacy Education Machine


When the Georgia Pharmacy Association approached me in the fall of 2016 about running their continuing pharmacy education, I admit it was not all that sexy sounding a gig. Exhibits on baseball

and ballet dancers pliéing on the precipices of a public park are the types of projects more likely to stir my passions. Dance, museum exhibits, plays, public history programs: through such programs, I come to know the content intimately (if I don't already) and I enjoy the thrill of large audiences appreciating the work I helped produce.

GPbA, in contrast, was asking me to focus not so much on personally creating content as building a responsive, accessible platform that would generate and deliver pharmacist-created content. Taking this assignment meant rethinking how Backstory would be most effective. It meant thinking meta about the project.

So, let's talk in meta terms about what that platform looked like. A piece of that platform had to be dynamic: market-driven, responsive to GPhA wants and needs. This dynamic piece would include a method for determining content need and organizing new courses. Another piece needed to be static, to include such components as the content delivery system, easily navigable webpages, and a system of assessments and internal reporting.

How does one determine the courses pharmacists need and want? You ask them, of course. Working with GPhA's CPE Advisory Committee, I authored an extensive survey and blasted it out multiple times to GPhA membership. I devised an incentive system (yes, the beloved gift card) to encourage strong response. And I listened, to respondents, rank and file committee members, the committee chair, the GPhA CEO. (It's called gap analysis, "gap" referring to the distance between where the profession is going and where pharmacists are right now.)

Through this listening approach, the CPE Advisory Committee, the CEO, and I built out an entire year's worth of courses in just four months. Much of that content would be delivered live and in person. (The pharmacist to the right is sitting in on such a session, on delivering immunizations.) Even more content would be delivered online, in webinars. For the webinar type, there are several options for delivering content. We landed on Go To Training, a Citrix product. With Go To Training, GPhA found an interactive, learner-focused format.

There is also an accrediting agency to please. This is definitely one of those static elements of a successful CPE program. Continuing Pharmacy Education must be accredited in order for learners to, well, get credit. In the world of pharmacy education, that accrediting body is ACPE, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy.

When Backstory and GPhA signed our contract, GPhA was in the throes of ACPE reaccreditation. Over the course of the first two months of our contract, I authored and assembled a 150-page document verifying that GPhA was meeting ACPE's requirements. Keeping ACPE accreditation would make or break the CPE program; failure to re-up ACPE accreditation would be like forgetting to pay the power bill.

We'll know for sure in a few weeks, but all indication thus far is that re-accreditation is immanent. In the meantime, there are other details to work out. There's a marketing plan. There are sponsorships to line up. There are speakers to pin down, slideshows to review and mount on Go To Training, and assessments to write and load. These are the nuts and bolts of a complicated machine.

In my museum and performing arts work, the task oftentimes entailed creating imaginative, immersive worlds. At GPhA, my work is somewhat more real-world. But it's also better-world. Without CPE opportunities, pharmacists across the Peach State won't get the CPE credits they need to keep their licenses valid. Pharmacists without licenses are pharmacists who can't practice pharmacy. That's a world nobody wants to live in.


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