Contextualising a simulation dispensing program - MyDispense

Written by Ms Saw Pui San, School of Pharmacy

Medication provision, known as “dispensing,” is a core activity of pharmacists. Good dispensing practices are essential for safe provision of medications and medical devices to the public. Dispensing errors are potentially life threatening, which means there is no room for error in the real world. A challenge to providing students with practical skills was our reliance through role play in a life-size mock dispensary and is proven difficult to use for teaching large classes.

Computer simulation can help overcome this limitation as they offer an environment where students can solve problems as they would in actual practice. MyDispense is an example of such a simulation program. This software, developed by the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University Australia, simulates both community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy practice. In MyDispense, the student function as a pharmacist-in-training as if the student were in an actual practice site.

How is MyDispense used in coaching pharmacist-in-training?

MyDispense was used to support teaching of safe and systematic procedures when dispensing medications through the four years of the pharmacy course. Students were introduced a holistic dispensing experience from initial gathering of patient history and the need to contact the prescriber, to providing professional advice when supplying medicines to patients. Students also learn the different types of information necessary to consider to safely dispense a prescription to a patient and apply the steps of the dispensing process to accurately dispense a safe prescription. These topics were taught to develop the skills and confidence in safe, best-practice dispensing of pharmaceutical products. Students receive instant feedback in a safe environment that blends much of what we teach them, from medicines theory to behavioural competencies as well as utilising professional judgment.

Working in a pharmacy is a rewarding and yet stressful experience. Thus, the MyDispense also trains students to be able to work in the fast-paced, service-oriented pharmacy environment by inculcating attention to detail, computer literacy and maintaining inventory. The program provides a safe virtual environment for students to make mistakes in the dispensing process without the life-threatening consequences of a real-world dispensing error. Feedback to students is immediate, thus students have a real-time opportunity to reflect on the case, learn from their errors of judgment and see the consequences of their actions. Finally, the simulation can be used to integrate a curriculum, as more complex cases can incorporate concepts from multiple courses and disciplines.

Contextualisation

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country and we wanted to ensure that our students were able to use MyDispense simulating the local context. One of the aims was also for students to experience various cases that involved local complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use, as this is commonly practised among the Malaysian population. The flexibility within MyDispense is that the local context can be adapted within the existing simulation. For example, schedules of medicines may differ between countries – some may be stored behind the dispensary, and some may be over the counter. The simulation is made easy that medicines can be moved around the inventory to suit local legal requirements. Therefore, in the School of Pharmacy in Monash Malaysia, various exercises have been incorporated by adapting and including these medicines within the simulation so that students are able to learn about the various interactions that may occur in practice.

Picture (left): This is an example of an exercise that was culturally adapted to reflect the common scenarios in a community pharmacy. There is high prevalence of CAM use by the Malaysian population, particularly in the use of herb-based therapies for health issues and health maintenance. Thus, pharmacy students need to have the sufficient knowledge and training to advice their patients, answer their inquiries and to be proactive in the healthcare process to ensure optional therapy outputs and minimize both drug-drug and drug-herb interactions.

“Employability is important, so to be able to learn via hands-on approach gives us an upper hand to experience the working environment of a pharmacy even at a very early stage of our course”

- Year 2 Pharmacy student

Collaboration

The MyDispense project has been an incredible journey, which led to the first MyDispense Asia Symposium, held in Monash University Malaysia in 2019. The event brought together participants from 7 countries – Australia, United States of America, Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, who had many opportunities to work together to create new cases that truly reflect global pharmacy. Pui San continues to run workshops for partner universities in Malaysia and embraces the philosophy of sharing education resources.