For any graduate, putting into practice the theory of what you have learnt can be nerve-wracking. At Griffith University Associate Professor Gary Grant and Denise Hope from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology are harnessing Microsoft technology to provide final year students with an opportunity to test their skills in a virtual pharmacy, before starting work in a real one.
Griffith University is a comprehensive university with a strongly digital first focus. It’s 50,000 students and 4,000 staff are spread across six campuses, and this is one reason why they have partnered with Microsoft to use Office 365 tools for productivity, as well as for learning and teaching. The University takes a pro-innovation stance which embraces the concept of positive disruption, and is committed to preparing students for the future of work. Microsoft Teams is now an integral part of the Griffith Virtual Learning Environment, which is designed to support student learning and creation throughout their program of study.
As part of its capstone program the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology runs the PharmG simulation. Based on a system developed at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, PharmG steps students through a series of real-life scenarios, to allow them to give their skills an all-important final test before graduating. For students it’s a safe environment to hone their practical skills by responding to a series of authentic challenges.
Dr Gary Grant, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Learning and Teaching at Griffith’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology explains that to make PharmG as real as possible eight mock pharmacies are physically built on campus, complete with technology and communications, and staffed by teams of students for three weeks.
Students team-up to form eight pharmacy groups, and for the duration of the simulation they are immersed in the story of Pillborough, a virtual town, that faces a range of health and community issues. that pharmacists People hired to play the role of customers enter the pharmacy and students are rated on how they respond to their needs.
The Microsoft Teams platform underpins the simulation, by providing the conduit for communication and collaboration between the students as they interact with one another for advice, support and management of the pharmacy. The student pharmacists are required to consult with community doctors, just as they might if they were real pharmacists. Teams is also how the School of Pharmacy communicates in real-time and shares assignments with students.
Using OneNote embedded into the Teams channels, Dr Grant and his team have created virtual pharmacy shelves, virtual products and a virtual fridge for students to prescribe from. As part of ongoing micro-assignments, students need to look out for notifications that might affect medications, such as power blackouts and temperature changes, and take action to ensure the security of their stock and the safety of their clients. Also housed within the OneNote pages are the patient’s virtual electronic medical records – an important resource for students in their decision making. With some patients making return visits to the pharmacy, students are being encouraged to intuit the underlying issues and create a whole picture of the patient that goes beyond filling a prescription.
It’s a significant commitment by the university, but as Dr Grant notes; “You need the right infrastructure, manpower and IT support to make something that is simulated as real as possible. Our need is to mix real with virtual to create a more realistic environment”.
This is the first year that Teams has been rolled out as part of PharmG and according to Dr Grant it has; “Allowed us to alert people to things that are happening and cues for them to respond about how they were feeling or to reflect.”
The simulation also allows students to rehearse how they might deal with major challenges – such as a storm, which could trigger asthma attacks – or a flood which might lead to power outages and trigger health complications among some customers.
“Teams is the jump-in platform for everything – notification that a challenge is coming or there’s a puzzle to solve. That comes through conversations in each Team. It’s part of the gamification.”
He’s also hopeful that it will prompt greater collaboration with other healthcare professions and pharmacists as students graduate and enter the real workplace. “At the moment it can be quite isolated because you are not really connected to other people, but there is so much scope for better collaboration between the professions.”
By bouncing ideas around inside their team, students have been able to work together to solve very complex clinical cases.
Microsoft Forms has been used to help track students’ emotional state throughout the simulation which has provided much greater clarity about what was driving stress, says Dr Grant.
The eight students who staff each pharmacy have to manage their own schedules but ensure that the pharmacy is properly staffed for the duration. From 2020 Dr Grant plans to roll out Microsoft Flow to support time management; “…to see how they can improve productivity and team management.”
But in keeping with the nature of the Capstone project, Dr Grant says students won’t be spoon-fed about how to use the technology. “We give them the tools then leave it to them to discover the possibilities – it’s up to them to show their capability, just like the real world.”
At Griffith, the Learning Futures unit supports educators to reflect on their practice and to innovate with technology. To find out more about how Griffith is using Microsoft tools for learning and teaching, contact the Learning Futures team here: [email protected]
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