University of Tasmania

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Pharmacy Simulator: A 3D computer-based virtual patient simulator for training community pharmacists

Introduction: Computer-based simulated learning experiences allow students to experience realistic, engaging workplace scenarios and apply classroom theory in a safe environment (Lyons, 2012; Susi et al., 2007).

Aims: To provide a computer-based pharmacy practice learning method that is as effective as paper-based scenarios, but more engaging and less labour-intensive.

Methods: We developed a virtual community pharmacy in which students can take on the role of pharmacist, and are given freedom to complete interactive patient scenarios from start to finish. Educators can write scenarios that cover almost any community pharmacy practice issue using the scenario builder tool that we also developed. The simulator was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial with third and fourth year Bachelor of Pharmacy students. We compared the traditional paper-based teaching method against the computer-based approach using equivalent scenarios. The paper-based group had two tutors while the computer group had none. Both groups were given a preand post-scenario clinical knowledge quiz and survey.

Results: A total of 33 students participated. Students in the computer-based group showed a trend towards greater improvements in their clinical knowledge score (mean change +0.63±1.31 vs. -0.24±1.30, p=0.059). Third year computer-based students also showed better improvements in history taking (n=18, p=0.029) and counselling competencies (n=18, p=0.008). Third year students found the simulation fun and engaging.

Discussion: Overall the pharmacy simulator provided learning outcomes that were generally equivalent to and in some cases better than those provided by a paper-based scenario equivalent, without the need for tutors, and was generally felt to be more fun. The simulator has the potential to augment our existing teaching activities, complementing and better preparing students for experiential learning.


University of Tasmania



School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology

Event title

2015 Joint APSA-ASCEPT Annual Conference

Event Venue

Hobart, Tasmania

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Learner and learning not elsewhere classified

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