Objectives: This study aimed to identify the key skills and knowledge required for the delivery of an ideal patient consultation in order to develop a training programme (using simulated-patients) to teach consultation skills to undergraduate pharmacy students.
Methods: Participants included all third year undergraduate Pharmacy students (MPharm, level III) at the School of Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton (from October 1999 to March 2000). Working in groups of 12, students participated in two 4 hour seminars. A structured questionnaire was designed to assess students' perceptions of the difficulty of conducting a consultation and their confidence in delivering a structured consultation.
Main outcome measures: Questionnaires were administered before and after delivery of the teaching programme to assess changes in students' confidence and ability to consult with patients.
Results: Twelve volunteers satisfied the criteria set to serve as simulated patients and then received appropriate training. Six scenarios were developed which focused on the key skills and knowledge identified from the adherence and consultation skills literature. A total of 91 students participated in the programme (mean age = 23 years, SD = 4.5). Following participation in the programme students' perceived 'confidence' for conducting an effective consultation significantly increased (t = -5.9, p < 0.01) while a statistically significant decrease was seen in students' perceived level of 'difficulty' when conducting a consultation (t = 4.0, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: This study has shown that the use of a structured teaching programme improves students' perceptions of their ability and confidence in conducting an effective consultation. Providing skills training around the consultation process, using simulated patients, provides pharmacists with a good framework around which to practice pharmaceutical care.