June 14, 2023


A major challenge faced by pharmacy schools in Canada is the training of future pharmacists communicating with patients in difficult or unexpected situations. Pharmacy schools have developed and implemented frameworks to guide future pharmacists in how to handle a number of situations, though learning in theory does not adequately prepare students for handling these tough situations in real-life. For example, there is a framework developed to guide a patient through a change in their medication plan. But what about when the future pharmacist is faced with a patient who cannot read but must change their medication plan for managing diabetes, including 5+ medications. The framework is simply not enough to prepare students for situations such as these, which will inevitably arise in the workforce. By introducing virtual reality (VR) technology to the academic plan, schools can provide their students with a more hands-on learning experience.

How VR Can Improve Communication

VR technology can be used to advance pharmacy students' communication skills with patients in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

  1. Virtual Patient Simulations: VR technology can be used to create virtual patient simulations that allow pharmacy students to practice their communication skills with a variety of patient types. These simulations can include scenarios such as counseling a patient on medication use, addressing patient concerns or questions, and navigating difficult conversations. By practicing in a safe and controlled environment, students can improve their communication skills and build confidence in their ability to interact with patients.

  2. Role-Playing Exercises: Another way VR can be used to advance pharmacy students' communication skills is through role-playing exercises. In these exercises, students can take on the role of a pharmacist and interact with virtual patients who are programmed to respond in a certain way. This approach allows students to practice different communication strategies and receive immediate feedback on their performance.

  3. Cultural Competency Training: VR can also be used to enhance pharmacy students' cultural competency skills. By creating virtual scenarios that reflect diverse patient populations, students can learn how to communicate effectively with patients from different cultural backgrounds. This approach can help to improve patient outcomes by reducing cultural misunderstandings and ensuring that patients feel heard and understood.

  4. Feedback and Evaluation: Finally, VR technology can be used to provide feedback and evaluation on students' communication skills. By recording and analyzing students' interactions with virtual patients, instructors can provide targeted feedback on areas for improvement and track progress over time.


Overall, VR technology offers a range of opportunities to advance pharmacy students' communication skills with patients. By providing realistic and engaging training experiences, students can build the skills and confidence they need to provide high-quality care to patients.

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