Quality Assurance

Knowledge Assessments Support Ongoing Learning and Continued Competency

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This past May, more than 2,700 Part A pharmacists completed the College’s new knowledge assessment. A component of the College’s Quality Assurance Program, knowledge assessments were introduced to assess pharmacists’ ability to apply their clinical knowledge as well as their knowledge of current legislation and ethical obligations to everyday patient care.

Complementing other elements of the College’s Quality Assurance Program that contribute to maintaining competency while continuously improving quality at an individual and health-system level, the knowledge assessment assists in providing the practitioner with feedback that either validates their current practice or identifies learning opportunities.

With a focus on engagement and learning, the knowledge assessment works alongside the other elements of the Quality Assurance Program (learning portfolio, self-assessment and practice assessment) to optimize patient care.

Pharmacists Share their Knowledge Assessment Experience

In recognition of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and to support evaluation of the latest component of the College’s Quality Assurance Program, Part A pharmacists’ 2022 participation in the new open-book knowledge assessment was by expression of interest only, with random selection initiating in 2023.

The knowledge assessment uses a multiple-choice question format and can be completed at any time throughout the month of May from a private environment such as a home or workplace. Registrants can access resources of their choice throughout the assessment, including CPS, which is reflective of real practice where pharmacists are expected to demonstrate their ability to access and apply current, reliable, and evidence-based references to support patient care.

The multiple-choice questions are developed and reviewed by peer pharmacists from various practice settings, including community, hospital and other settings. Having a cross-section of pharmacists from different practice environments helps ensure the assessment is appropriate and reflective of the Part A pharmacist population in Ontario. The College thanks all those involved in the development of the knowledge assessment for their expertise and commitment to safe, quality pharmacy care.

Swasti Bhajan, a hospital pharmacy director, was one of the more than 2,700 Part A pharmacists who completed the May 2022 knowledge assessment.

“It was a great learning opportunity to participate in the knowledge assessment,” says Bhajan. “Pharmacists have a professional responsibility to stay current with pharmacy practice and maintain core current knowledge – the knowledge assessment supports this responsibility.”

Community pharmacist Fatima Ismail also participated in the College’s inaugural knowledge assessment. “We all come from different educational backgrounds and it’s important for us to reaffirm we’re competent to serve and protect the public,” says Ismail. “I also found the questions related to what we do in the pharmacy every day.”

Assessments Contribute to Optimizing Patient Care

Part of the College’s commitment to protecting the public is helping to ensure that pharmacy professionals maintain appropriate skills and knowledge throughout their career. All components of the Quality Assurance Program, including the knowledge assessment, assures the public that pharmacy professionals are practicing to the standards of the profession, and are engaged in safe and quality care.

“Continuous professional development and ensuring core current knowledge is vital to best support the patients that we provide care for,” says Bhajan.

With the open-book format, Part A pharmacists demonstrate their ability to access and apply current evidence-based knowledge to optimize the health outcomes of their patients – even if the knowledge is outside their current, specific area of practice.

Immediately after completing and submitting the knowledge assessment, pharmacists are provided a summary of their results presented by topic area to help them validate their areas of strength and identify areas of growth or continued learning. Because this is an activity focused on learning, pharmacists who are unsuccessful have another opportunity to retake the assessment in the same month.

“Professional development and ensuring current core knowledge is very important for pharmacists because there is new knowledge every day,” says Ismail. Ongoing learning is vital to best serve patients.

Assessment Participant Feedback for Peers and the College

The College will use feedback gathered from registrants to inform and support enhancements to the knowledge assessment experience moving forward.

The feedback below is a sampling of what we heard from May 2022 knowledge assessment participants:

  • Going through an exam to determine if a pharmacist can continue to practice the profession after so many years is stressful, but preparing for the assessment helped to review different topics related to pharmacy practice.
  • Repeat this kind of assessment more frequently for pharmacists and do a similar assessment for registered technicians.
  • The knowledge assessment gave me more confidence in my practice. It’s good to know that the professional judgments I make every day during my practice is meeting the College’s expectations.

Additionally, some candidates thought the questions were not challenging enough while others felt they were too difficult or complex.

The College will consider all feedback as part of the knowledge assessment evaluation and implement any enhancements prior to 2023.

After completing the knowledge assessment herself, Bhajan shares the following advice with her pharmacist peers who will be completing the assessment in the coming years:

Ismail also has a message for her pharmacy peers: “This is an extremely useful exercise in determining how much you know and where your gaps are. Where to look up information when needed is a very important skill as more guidelines and knowledge becomes available.”

  • Over 95% of participants successfully completed the knowledge assessment
  • Of the registrants who completed the knowledge assessment feedback survey:
    • Over 90% had an overall positive experience with the assessment
    • Over 90% agreed the knowledge assessment confirmed their core current knowledge
    • Over 85% agreed resources, such as CPS, supported them in completing the knowledge assessment
    • Over 85% agreed the knowledge assessment help them identify areas for continued learning
    • Over 85% agreed the knowledge assessment was reflective of pharmacist practice in general

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