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Virtual patients as a tool for training pre-registration pharmacists and increasing their preparedness to practice: A qualitative study

Thompson, Jessica; White, Simon; Chapman, Stephen

Virtual patients as a tool for training pre-registration pharmacists and increasing their preparedness to practice: A qualitative study Thumbnail


Jessica Thompson

Stephen Chapman


Virtual patients are an active learning pedagogical tool which simulate clinical scenarios in a three-dimensional environment. Their use in pharmacy education is under-researched in comparison to other healthcare professions. In the United Kingdom, pre-registration training refers to a year of workplace based training which pharmacy graduates must complete prior to professional registration as pharmacists. This study aimed to evaluate pre-registration pharmacists’ perceptions on the integration, usefulness and enjoyment of completing virtual patient simulations or non-interactive case studies as part of their training. Pre-registration trainees completed three virtual patient simulations or three non-interactive case studies on the topics of: emergency hormonal contraception, renal function and childhood illnesses. Telephone interviews were conducted with twenty pre-registration pharmacists, exploring their perspectives on the use of the virtual patient or non-interactive case studies. Data was analysed using the five-stage framework approach. Four main themes emerged from the data: case study design; usefulness of the case studies as a training tool; support in pre-registration training; utility of the learning tools. Trainees also identified technical issues they had experienced while completing the virtual patient simulations, specifically with keyword recognition. Pre-registration trainees who used the virtual patients provided comments relating to the novelty, realism and enjoyment in completing them. Trainees in both groups reported developing knowledge and skills from completing the case studies; those who used the virtual patient commented on the development of communication skills and an increase in confidence for practice and those who used the non-interactive cases focused on knowledge acquisition and numeracy. Participants were enthusiastic about virtual patients as a novel training tool which provided an opportunity for learners to practice realistic scenarios in a safe environment. Virtual patients offer the potential to ‘bridge the gap’ in pharmacist pre-registration sector-related training variation, promote learning through reflection on doing and increase overall preparedness for practice.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 11, 2020
Publication Date Aug 31, 2020
Journal PLoS One
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 8
Article Number e0238226
Publisher URL


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