Pandemic stops play, or does it…?

By Sarah Crawshaw

It can be said with certainty that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. In the UK, we thought our biggest challenge for the year was going to be whether we got a deal or no deal Brexit, we couldn’t have been more wrong!

At first it seemed as though delivering our PharmacyGame in Bath, Pharmacy Management Simulation, was going to be near enough impossible to do. How do you teach Pharmacy Students how to manage a pharmacy remotely?! However, over the summer, staff at the University of Bath took on this challenge to transform our teaching for the 2020-21 academic year to fit to the ‘Bath Blend’. This brought together in-person activities, live online interactive learning and independent learning for our students. And so, our journey began.

In Bath, we run an intensive two-week simulation and four blocks of this were run between October and December 2020. Students were put into groups of 4/5 and allocated one of our simulated pharmacies. With restrictions on the numbers of students that were allowed onto campus each day to accommodate social distancing and maximum capacities for teaching spaces, a maximum of two students from each pharmacy were permitted to access campus each day with the other members working remotely. Our first challenge therefore was to find a way for students to be able to easily communicate as a group to collaborate and work together to complete tasks no matter where they were.

Taking inspiration from our fellow PharmacyGame colleagues at Griffith University, we sought to make best use of Office 365 software; in particular Teams, OneNote and Forms, to ensure the game ran smoothly. And so, the virtual town of Pharmborough was brought to life for the first time in Microsoft Teams! Each pharmacy team had their own private channel within Teams to allow them to communicate and collaborate with other members of the pharmacy team, and for game management to communicate privately with them. The day to day running of the game was done through this environment, with announcements posted on a regular basis

The next challenge was how to recreate the environment found in a pharmacy. Previously, our game has been very paper heavy with large numbers of prescriptions printed on a daily basis as well as other pharmacy documentation, something that wouldn’t be possible this year. To overcome this, a pharmacy environment was created within Microsoft OneNote. Within their Teams channel, using SharePoint functionality, pharmacies would have their own version of a OneNote notebook. All students in a pharmacy were able to access this notebook and edit it in real time with their colleagues. This notebook contained all the standard operating procedures for their pharmacy, as well as a ‘virtual’ controlled drugs cupboard (complete with emoji tablets!) and fridge and electronic versions of other record keeping documentation required. Students would also be sent their prescriptions, a medicines information and resource and finance task on a daily basis to this notebook.

To complete an authentic pharmacy environment, we needed patients to visit our pharmacies! These couldn’t be done in person this year but gave the students an opportunity to practice virtual consultation skills, something that will be a vital skill for the future. The Game Management team would set up Teams meetings between the in-charge pharmacist in each pharmacy that day and ‘patients’. These would be either staff members from the department or professional medical actors. They would role play different cases from walk-in prescriptions, to over-the-counter requests, to ethical dilemmas or pharmacy services. Responses to these cases were captured digitally using Microsoft Forms and then scored as part of the Game.

Thankfully, technology behaved itself and the game ran successfully without any technical difficulties. Despite how things were done being different, feedback from the students was that they still felt that they were able to work effectively as a team and practice the core skills needed for future practice. Many of them commented that they felt their pharmacy practice skills had improved as a result of the simulation and that their teamworking and leadership skills had developed too, meeting the intended learning outcomes. Despite our initial worries, it will take more than a global pandemic to stop us from PharmacyGame-ing!

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