Aspiring pharmacists will spend a shorter time facing the books so as to allow them to start practising their trade sooner.
Under a revamped curriculum for pharmacy students that will kick in at the National University of Singapore (NUS) this August, students will have to undergo only three years of lectures.
This will be supplemented with a year of "experiential learning" - including a project and a six-month internship at facilities such as hospitals, community pharmacies or pharmaceutical companies - which students have to complete before they graduate.
The revamped curriculum was announced by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong last night at the sixth annual pharmacists' pledge affirmation ceremony, where he was guest of honour.
Previously, NUS pharmacy students had to undergo four years of university education, which included two six-week job attachments spread over their second and third year of study. This will now be extended and consolidated into a six-month training programme that will be completed by students in their fourth year.
Said Associate Professor Chui Wai Keung, head of the Pharmacy Department at NUS: "Based on feedback from practitioners, students would achieve the required competency if the attachments were carried out in the final year."
The satisfactory completion of the six-month internship can also count towards the 12-month pre-registration training required by the Singapore Pharmacy Council to qualify to be a licensed pharmacist.
This means that pharmacy graduates under the new curriculum can be licensed about three months faster than their peers from previous cohorts.
In his speech, Mr Gan also lauded the profession for supporting the Health Ministry's Healthcare 2020 initiative - a masterplan that aims to boost the accessibility, quality and affordability of health care to reach out to Singapore's growing population.
"NUS has been expanding the intake of pharmacy students - it is on track to eventually producing 240 pharmacy graduates per year to meet the national demand," he said.
Last year, NUS had 135 pharmacy graduates, up from the 124 in 2012 and 106 in 2011. Prof Chui said he is confident that the school would be able to reach the target of 240 "gradually".
Mr Wong Qi Xuan, a 26-year-old who recently completed his pre-registration training at Alexandra Hospital, said the new curriculum would enable future pharmacy students to better see the relevance of their study in a real-life setting.
He said: "If a student studies renal disease, for instance, he can see how it better applies in a real setting."
This article was published on May 10 in The Straits Times.
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