P harmacy educators are constantly looking for innovative approaches to sustain students’ interests, encourage peer learning and improve their practical skills. Come this year, pharmacy students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will get to play games in class as part of a module on developing professional pharmacy practice skills.
Based on feedback gathered from about 500 pharmacy students, a team led by Drs Kevin Yap and Yap Kai Zhen from NUS Pharmacy developed an adventure-themed multi-player online role-playing game where students are challenged to think critically about healthcare issues and trained to acquire professional practice skills through problem-solving approaches.
Set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, the game requires students to take on the role of pharmacist avatars and interact with virtual patients while embarking on a mystery mission, such as saving the world from a plague that transforms humans to zombies. The new online game, where pharmacy students get to practice their skills in dispensing medications and counselling patients, comes with varying levels of difficulty.
“It is often challenging to demonstrate the application and relevance of academic concepts to practices in a real-world setting,” explained Dr Kevin Yap. “Virtual environments provide an engaging and safe environment for students to experiment and learn. They also allow students to put themselves in the shoes of a healthcare professional to develop the skills and confidence needed towards patient interactions.”
Throughout the game, students encounter different scenarios which require them to interact with, and assess virtual patients through observations of visual and audio cues. Students also communicate with virtual patients through a series of questions to find out more about the patients’ medical conditions.
The game follows a “choose your own adventure” format in which virtual patients will react according to how the students respond. Students will then perform the appropriate tasks, such as prescription processing, prescribing of over-the-counter treatments, development of a pharmaceutical care plan as well as patient counselling.
In various studies conducted by the team, many of the participants found the game effective in training health communication skills, extraction of drug information and knowledge on pharmacotherapy of drugs. The project team plans to fine-tune the game further and to develop a continuation of the game that will be incorporated into other course modules.