While lecture theatre and seminar pharmacy lessons are informative and educational, there’s no doubt that for pharmacy and medical students, there is no substitute for being ‘live in action’ with real patients in real time.

For the last three years, fourth- year pharmacy students at Robert Gordon University have been able to volunteer to take part in a ‘ward simulation’ pilot project as part of a multidisciplinary team, which also featured medical students from the University of Saint Andrews and nursing students from the University of Dundee.

The success of this pilot has now lead to the ward simulation being embedded in the pharmacy course and every fourth-year student will now have the opportunity to take part in this fascinating aspect of their pharmacy education.

‘We are delighted that this ward simulation will now be available to every fourth-year pharmacy student,’ says Alyson Brown, who is the pharmacy lead for the ward simulation. ‘Basically the simulation is a multi-professional one with medical, nursing and pharmacy students all taking part. There are two simulated wards which run as part of the simulation – a medical admissions ward and a surgical admissions ward. Each ward has five simulated patients and the simulation runs for an hour, followed by a debrief which focuses on both the technical aspects of the simulation along with teamworking, communication and safety.

‘Each of the pharmacists work as part of the multidisciplinary team carrying out the duties that such a team would carry out in a real-life scenario, dealing with both patients who are being admitted and those who are being discharged and supporting their medical colleagues throughout

‘The patients give the students exposure to a range of medical and surgical issues and the student team works together to manage the

ward throughout the simulation.

‘The fact that the ward simulation has already been in practice over the last three years – albeit on a voluntary basis – means that we have already had feedback from many students as to how they feel during this exercise and what they feel they learn from it.

‘It’s clear that the students find the session intense. It is, after all, their first experience of a high-fidelity simulation in this context, but they have also told us how vitally important they feel the follow-up debrief is.

‘What I think is particularly useful about the ward simulation programme is that it not only covers the clinical aspects of pharmacy, but, following the handover at the end of the session, the debrief then provides them with the opportunity to consider aspects of the session, such as patient safety, teamwork

and communication. In this way, they are able to contextualise and develop their knowledge during their studies, and this definitely prepares them for their pre- registration year and beyond.’

Now that the ward simulation will be embedded in the course, every fourth-year pharmacy student will be able to take part in a high-fidelity simulation in a ward environment. This follows a community pharmacy

simulation that they undertake in their final year as well.

‘Over the three-year period of the pilot project,’ Alyson continues, ‘we bring two students to cover each of the medical and surgical wards for each one-hour simulation. We will now be increasing this to allow as many students as possible to come down over the four days that we run the simulations. We’re simply delighted that the pilot was so successful that it is now part of the pharmacy course. I certainly think all of the students involved will benefit from it – which can only be good for patient outcomes!’

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