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Technological Innovations in Pharmacy Education

The DELTA Rx Institute and Drake University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences believe that invention and innovation are essential tools for success. This belief is incorporated into the Drake curriculum, which implements innovative pharmacy education practices by incorporating technology that creates or simulates real patient care situations.
In January of 2009, Drake University unveiled the Donald F. Davidson Pharmacy Practice Laboratory. This lab is designed to mimic eight mini retail pharmacies and includes the most modern technologies available, including bar code scanning, order scanning, and a Parata Max dispensing machine. As the only classroom of its type in the United States, this laboratory is an exemplar of innovation in pharmacy education.
In order to parallel an actual pharmacy as closely as possible, the initial sketches of the lab were completed by Heidi Price (Instructor of Pharmacy Practice). She has a great deal of experience working in the retail practice setting and was able to design a practical workflow. Spatial constraints posed an issue. “We could not make the room any larger and trying to fit a workable space for 24 students and an instructor, plus the equipment we wanted, proved to be challenging, says Price. She worked with the architects to overcome this obstacle ensuring that the final design would mimic the flow of work in a typical retail pharmacy.
This innovative lab is utilized by students throughout three didactic years of their pharmacy curriculum. The technology offers students the advantage of learning in a realistic retail setting, while under the guidance of the classroom instructor.
Each station incorporates the full pharmacy experience. Students scan in the original prescription, provide patient counseling and even capture the patient’s signature. Students gain awareness of the roles of technician, pharmacist, and patient during an actual pharmacy interaction. Additionally, students enjoy the opportunity to learn from each others’ experiences while increasing their familiarity with the community pharmacy setting. Adjunct Professor of Pharmacy Janalyn Phillips believes that “these important principles help shape students to be confident speakers and allows for practice in real-life counseling situations.  

Drake University also provides innovative learning opportunities through the use of the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine Simulation Lab. The DMU simulation lab is a state of the art hospital setting where nurses, physicians, and pharmacy students function as a team to work through simulated cases on robotic patients. Mannequins with real time vitals and response mechanisms react to every procedure, medication, and outside stimulus.

DMU invited Drake University to utilize this important resource as part of the curriculum for third year pharmacy students to enhance the educational experience for students from all disciplines. Pharmacy students play an active role making recommendations about anything pharmacy related during the simulation experience: “The pharmacist role that I played allowed me to be very involved in the drug selection process as well as in the education of the other students regarding drug classes and potential therapy options,” said Rachel Althoff, a third year pharmacy student (P3). 
To make the simulation patient as real as possible, the simulation patient can urinate, drool, or leak “blood” when appropriate, as well as constrict or dilate pupils, leak tears, and produce bowel sounds. Patients in this facility can give birth up to twelve times a day, have multiple heart attacks, and suffer from three different arrhythmias. The simulation “demonstrates real-life scenarios that show how pharmacists would clinically interact with doctors and nurses. It allows us to learn more about different disease states while also using our medication knowledge to help ensure the patient is receiving the proper care,” stated Kelly Ackerman (P3).
The lab has several measures built in to measure the accuracy of the processes being performed so that the students can gain knowledge from the mistakes made. The room contains a mirrored window, allowing instructors and other students to watch without distracting those in the lab. Microphone and cameras are also in place to record each session so that the students can review the events that have taken place while receiving feedback from the instructor. Each mannequin records and prints information about the drug doses, CPR compressions, and blood loss that took place during the event, and whether each situation was handled correctly. This innovative experience allows pharmacy students to learn from their mistakes and gain confidence.
The DMU simulation lab provides an excellent learning opportunity for Drake’s pharmacy students, but also presents an opportunity to begin the formation of collaborative relationships between future pharmacists and physicians. The experience fosters an open environment and a sense of camaraderie between Drake and DMU, and is the start of life-long collaborative practice skills.
Implementing innovative curriculum into pharmacy education gives students exposure to the field and the opportunity to gain valuable experience in a didactic setting. Technological innovations are beneficial because they free up the pharmacist’s time so the focus is patient care. Early exposure to these technologies can only improve the student’s potential for providing quality patient care in the future.
The DELTA Rx Institute would like to thank Carter Birkel (Pharm.D. Candidate 2010) for his contribution to this article.