Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12A, 9-12
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 9
Cultivating of Service-Oriented Pharmaceutical Talents in China
Rong Xu1,2, Mingli Shao1*
1School of International Pharmaceutical Business, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China
2School of Pharmacy, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China
Received October 30th, 2013; revised November 30th, 2013; accepted December 7th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Rong Xu, Mingli Shao. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copy-
rights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Rong Xu, Mingli Shao. All
Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Health Care System Reform of China puts forward new requirements for service-oriented pharmaceutical
talents. Traditional mode of higher pharmaceutical education in China could not meet the social demand
because of its “drug-centered” teaching system and shortage of service-oriented pharmaceutical talents.
So it is urgent to transform the traditional mode and cultivate application-oriented pharmaceutical talents.
This paper will give some suggestions, including establishing uniform standards for cultivating ser-
vice-oriented pharmaceutical talents and transiting traditional curriculum and teaching methods. More-
over, it is feasible to establish effective linkup between professional degree and license examination.
Keywords: Higher Pharmaceutical Education; Service-Oriented Pharmaceutical Talents; Pharmacy
Professional Degree
In March 2009, the CPC Central Committee and the State
Council put forward Opinions of Deepening Health Care Sys-
tem Reform, and then issued Implementation Plan for the Re-
cent Priorities of the Health Care System Reform (2009-2011).
Such moves marked the official presence of New Healthcare
Reform Scheme. In that new program, explicit requirements of
pharmaceutical service have been proposed. For instance, phar-
macists should supply the qualified drugs, standardize clinical
use of drugs, ensure correct use of medicines and satisfactory
service accessible to patients etc. Again in March 2012, the
plan, Deepening Reform Planning and Implementation Scheme
of Healthcare system during Twelfth Five-Year period, has set
higher standards on pharmacy services and pharmacists training.
In recent years, requirements of pharmacists are undergoing
such changes as from being “drug-centered” to “patient-cen-
tered” from drug supply to pharmaceutical service and from
drug management to service management. A stark contrast to
these changes is that we are still short of service-oriented phar-
maceutical talents in terms of both quantity and quality, which
has been capping the further development of pharmacy due to
traditional education mode. Therefore, it is urgent to transfer
the mode of cultivating pharmaceutical talents in China.
Main Problems and Challenges
Traditional Pharmacy Education: Drug-Centered
Teaching Sy stem
The aim of traditional pharmacy education system in Chinese
pharmacy schools or universities is to cultivate research-ori-
ented students. The curricula are designed to focus on technical
knowledge of pharmacy and to teach principles and techniques
of drug discovery and development. Through comprehensive
studies, pharmacy students may obtain solid knowledge of la-
boratory procedures and scientific methods. Without doubt, this
kind of education system has fostered a large number of re-
searchers which greatly contributed to the development of
pharmaceutical industry. According to the statistics on phar-
macy graduates’ (including TCM) employment from Chinese
Pharmaceutical Yearbook 2009, half of them took marketing,
manufacturing or research positions in pharmaceutical indus-
try, 18% took teaching or research positions in academia, 1%
worked in the administrative organs, while only 7% took dis-
pensing positions in hospital pharmacies (Chen, 2012). Others
continued their studies at a higher level or simply changed their
professions. Obviously, China’s traditional pharmacy education
gives first priority to cultivate research-oriented talents.
Acute Shortage of Service-Oriented Pharmaceutical
Nowadays, with the advancement of society and increasing
demand for health care, service-oriented pharmaceutical talents
mastering the knowledge of drug application become scarce in
our society. In the meantime, plannings or programmings re-
cently issued have formulated the minimum scale of service-
oriented pharmaceutical talents. For example, Pharmaceutical
Affairs Management Regulation of Medical Institutions (2011)
demands pharmacists with a quantity of no less than 8% of the
hospital technical personnel. On this score, Chinese medical
institutions will need approximately 610,000 pharmacists by
2020. At the same time, according to National Drug Safety Plan
(2011-2015) which foresees one pharmacist for every drugstore,
Chinese pharmaceutical retailers will need about 390,000
*Corresponding author.
pharmacists by 2020. In total, more than 100 million pharma-
cists are needed. Considering the current no more than 400,000
pharmacists, there seems a long way for the team construction
of pharmaceutical talents.
Unreasonab l e Posi t ioning of Cultivating
Pharmaceutical Talents
As stated above, due to the unreasonable positioning for the
overall cultivating of pharmaceutical talents, a big gap exists in
China between the existing training model and market require-
ments. Under the guidance of traditional pharmacy education,
obvious structural defects of knowledge occur in reality. For
many students, shortage of biomedical knowledge and clinical
practice skills lead to low proficiency in the selection and eval-
uation of clinical medicine treatment. The ignorance of a hu-
manistic care of patients invites more attention to drug deve-
lopment, manufacture and marketing. Consequently, most of
them were nothing but drug suppliers and felt difficulty in pro-
viding pharmaceutical service in face of patients (Wu, 2004).
Obviously, such purely academic pharmacy education does not
meet the demands of cultivating service and applica-tionori-
ented pharmaceutical talents.
Current Situation
Trend of Cultivating Application-Oriented Talents
in China
In March 2009, the Ministry of Education of China proposed
plans to increase the enrollment of full-time professional degree
graduates and then issued criteria for the training scheme with
an emphasis on teaching methods, practice teaching and so on.
The initiative reflected a major change of development strategy
of graduate education, shifting from academic education to
application-oriented education at the post-graduate level. In
January 2010, Master Program of Pharmacy Professional De-
gree was deliberated and finalized at the 27th meeting of the
Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council. After four
months, the specific scheme was issued (State Council Aca-
demic Degrees Committee, 2012). As one of the earliest estab-
lished full-time professional degree programs at the postgradu-
ate level, Master Program of Pharmacy Professional Degree
will strengthen the way of cultivating application-oriented tal-
Learning from Pharmacy Education in US
Long-term professional education system is the trend of re-
form in International pharmacy education for the purpose of
fostering reliable pharmacists. Advanced concept of pharmacy
education in the United States has been well recognized and
followed by many countries in the world. Academic degree and
professional degree are two cultivation models co-existing in
pharmacy education in U.S. and three different levels of post-
graduate degrees are available: Master of Science (M.S.), Doc-
tor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.).
M.S. and Ph.D. belong to academic degrees, while Pharm. D. is
the first professional degree (Jiang, Zhang, & Yu, 2009). Stu-
dents obtaining academic degree mainly engage in scientific
research, whereas students applying for pharmacist licenses
should obtain the degree of Pharm. D. In that sense, profes-
sional degree Pharm. D. proves to be a prerequisite for becom-
ing a pharmacist.
In that way (as shown in Figure 1), pharmacy education sys-
tem in the United States has clearly formed research-based
academic route and application-based professional route. To
meet the actual needs of the society, Pharm. D. graduates
should also pass the qualification license of pharmacists. Fur-
thermore, only Pharm. D. graduates are eligible to participate in
this kind of qualification examination (Zhang JG & Zhang ZG,
Conclusion and Suggestion
Necessity and Feasibility of Developing
Service-Riented Pharmaceutical Talents
According to statistics from World Health Organization, 1/7
people died of irrational drug use instead of natural aging or
diseases and 1/3 patients died of irrational drug use. In China,
irrational drug users account for about 11% - 26% of total pa-
tients (Li & Zhou, 2011). The incidence of severe drug- in-
duced diseases like drug addiction, malformations, blindness,
shock, kidney damage, and cell mutation reached up to 30%.
However, if pharmacists participate in a treatment program, the
risk of irrational drug use could be effectively reduced. An
investigation of clinical pharmacists intervention in clinical
treatment for epilepsy surgery patients revealed that the average
length of stay can be decreased by 23.2% and antibiotic usage
by 47.2%. At the same time, postoperative seizure control rate
was reduced by 43.2% and the cost was also significantly re-
duced (Wu, Lv, & Yan, 2009). It showed that pharmacists’
intervention contributed a lot in minimizing the risk of im-
proper use of medicines. In many countries, the proportion of
pharmacist to the population has been an indicator measuring a
country’s public health level, especially pharmaceutical care
level. The following table (see Table 1) shows the total amount
of pharmacists and population density of pharmacists in some
countries. Obviously, China has the lowest rate of population
density of pharmacists owing to its large population base and
deficient pharmacists. There is still a wide gap in this regard
between China and other developed and developing countries
(Wu, 2009).
doctor of
degree of
degree of Doctor
degree of
Academic degree Professional degree
Figure 1.
Education system after undergraduate level in US Notes: the arrows
indicate the possible transformational relation between degre es.
Open Access
Table 1.
Total amount of and population density of pharmacists in some coun-
tries (Statistics from WHO in 2010).
nationality total amount of
pharmacists (thousands) population de nsi t y of
pharmacists (per thousand)
US 249.642 91
UK 48.972 80
Australia - 75
Japan - 195
Brazil 104.098 60
India 592.577 61
China(exclude HK,
Macao and Taiwan
regions) 382.240 30
Encouragingly, the importance of training pharmacists, par-
ticularly clinical pharmacists, has been recognized in recent
years in China. Some hospitals and colleges have commenced
the cultivation about clinical pharmacy. Starting from inves-
tigating clinical medicines and analyzing prescription, the do-
mestic clinical pharmacists participated in clinical drug therapy
and gradually involved in clinical drug therapy like providing
pharmaceutical information, monitoring therapeutic drug and
adverse drug reaction as well as other clinical work.
Specialty of clinical pharmacy has been introduced in some
schools. A variety of degrees are offered by various programs
partially because there is no standardization of curricula. BS
degrees in pharmacy or medicine, MS degrees in pharmacy or
medicine, and PhD degrees in pharmacy can all have compo-
nents of clinical pharmacy. Despite absence of unified stand-
ards and guidelines in pharmaceutical talents cultivation, in any
case, those graduates have relieved the pressure of China’s
demand. Unfortunately, there are as few as 500 graduates each
year which fails to satisfy the demand of a total of 30 thousands
clinical pharmacists (Liu & Chen, 2010).
Unified standards of pharmacy training should be established
in order to cultivate high-level pharmacists. Long educational
system of 6 - 7 years for combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree
Program is recommended to acquire the pharmaceutical and
medical knowledge as well as adequate practice time, which
will improve students’ ability to identify, analyze and solve pra-
ctical problems. Pharm. D. degree has not been introduced to
our country and Professional Master of Pharmacy (M. Pharm.)
is recommended to be granted.
Transition of Pharmacy Curricula and Teach i ng
Training for service-oriented pharmacy personnel should be
positioned in professional education with the purpose of help-
ing pharmacists render pharmaceutical services to patients dur-
ing disease prevention and treatment. As a good pharmaceutical
worker, besides extensive knowledge of medicine, effective
communication with patients facilitating efficient pharmaceuti-
cal care is also a must. Therefore, several course modules with
therapeutics as the core should be set up which includes bio-
medicine, pharmaceutical science, clinical science and social/
behavioral/management science. In particular, biomedicine mo-
dule includes courses of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry,
pathology and cell biology; pharmaceutical science module in-
cludes medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, bio-pharmacy, drug
pharmacokinetics, while toxicology and pharmacogenetics are
offered by circumstance. Clinical science module includes
pharmaceutical service for special population, drug information
and literature evaluation, drug metrology, patient assessment,
and pharmaceutical service skills. Social science courses like
pharmaceutical administration, pharmaco economics, interper-
sonal communication, ethics and psychology constitutes the
module of social/behavioral/management science. Besides taught
courses, students should serve in hospital pharmaceutical for
about one year for practice.Instructions of knowledge, prac-
tical skills, professional attitudes and values should run through-
out the entire curricula and pharmacy practice.
In response to the transition of market demands, the above-
mentioned modes and flexible methods of education would be
adjusted in time to fulfill the requirements for professional
competence and transform pharmaceutical education into a
professional and applie d one with great practicality and adapta-
Establish Effective Linkup between Professional
Degree and License Examination
The orientation of developing Master of Pharmacy Profess-
ional Degree in exploration is to cultivate high-level pharma-
ceutical specialists with strong ability for technical innovation
and problem-solving. Consequently, practice is the key to en-
hance this ability. In order to distinguish the training scheme of
professional programs from academic ones, many colleges and
universities only scale up practice in original scheme instead of
renewing training specifications, which leaves professional pro-
grams no clear distinction with academic type but still follow
the traditional mode of pharmacy education, and consequently
fails to produce applied talents in need. On the other hand, bur-
geon of our licensed pharmacists is suffering bottlenecks of
shortage both in quantity and in quality. The national licensed
pharmacist registration statistics in first quarter of 2010 showed
that registered licensed pharmacists with bachelor degree and
three-year college education made up 73% of all enrollments,
while pharmacists with secondary vocational school education
merely accounted for 24% and rare with master degree or doc-
toral degree (State Food and Drug Administration licensed
pharmacist Credentialing Center, 2010). The main reason for it
is that high-level pharmaceutical professionals remain short-
supplied. Therefore, it is feasible to establish effective linkup
between professional degree and license examination and fur-
ther make professional degree a prerequisite to licensing. In
doing so, social recognition of professional degree would be
promoted and pressure in need of licensed pharmacists would
be relieved once pharmacy degree training program accords
with the requirements of licensed pharmacists. For better inte-
gration, the department in charge of Licensed Pharmacist Ex-
amination should associate with the pharmacy professional edu-
cation to ensure quality of professional degree, via intervening
in the applicants’ qualification, training programs and other
aspects of degree conferring, evaluation and quality control etc.
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Open Access 11
Open Access
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