How we have facilitated workplace-based assessments amid social distancing measures

Social distancing measures implemented to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have presented many challenges in the workplace. On the clinical pharmacy postgraduate diploma at the Liverpool John Moores University we need to balance compliance with these measures without compromising a practitioner’s training. This prompted me to consider alternative ways of facilitating workplace-based assessments (WBAs), especially for students who require observations of their practice.

Case-based discussions are the easiest to adapt since they involve a retrospective discussion rather than observations of practice. These discussions can be conducted face-to-face, over the phone or via video-conferencing facilities. Foundation pharmacists should keep details of patient cases where they have had significant input to facilitate future assessments.

Pharmaceutical care assessments can be conducted remotely if the foundation pharmacist and assessor have access to electronic prescribing and case notes. The foundation pharmacist can discuss their approach to patient care with the assessor either in the same office or via telephone or video-conferencing facilities. This assessment can also be used to evaluate how a pharmacist obtains background information and constructs a plan for answering a medicines information enquiry.

Consultation skills assessments can be conducted in the usual manner if the environment allows compliance with social distancing measures. The increase in telephone and video consultations being conducted by GPs may continue and be adopted more widely. Therefore, if a patient consents, an assessor could listen to such a consultation (over the phone or via video-conference) or the encounter could be recorded (if the assessor is unavailable at the time of the call).

Since direct observation of practical skills (DOPS) generally involves more specific, discrete tasks (for example, checking of products made in aseptics or measuring a patient’s blood pressure), students may still be able to be observed while following social distancing rules.

Foundation pharmacists can use the reflective account to consider their performance in WBAs as well as other patient cases, critical incidents or periods of practice (for example, rotations). Other ideas for reflective accounts following the COVID-19 crisis include:

  • Changes to working practices implemented by employer, such as remote working for providing clinical services to wards, telephone or video consultations in GP practices, re-designing community pharmacy shop floors to ensure safe access by patients;
  • Working in an unfamiliar clinical specialty, a different department or involvement in other activities (for example, staff training).

Continued facilitation of WBAs is arguably even more important following the General Pharmaceutical Council’s policy on the provisional registration of pharmacists this summer. I hope others may find these suggestions for facilitating WBAs in our current climate useful.


Gareth Nickless, lead clinical liaison tutor for the postgraduate diploma in clinical pharmacy, Liverpool John Moores University

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2020, Vol 304, No 7938;304(7938):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208062

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