Use of simulated patients to assess the clinical and communication skills of community pharmacists

Pharm World Sci. 2010 Jun;32(3):353-61. doi: 10.1007/s11096-010-9375-z. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


Objective: To investigate the quality and appropriateness of Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) supply from community pharmacies.

Setting: Community pharmacies in the southwest of England during 2007.

Method: Two simulated patient ('mystery shopper') scenarios to each participating pharmacy, one where the supply of EHC would be appropriate (scenario 1) and one where there was a drug interaction between EHC and St John's Wort, and the supply inappropriate (scenario 2). Pharmacy consultations were rated using criteria developed from two focus groups: one with pharmacist academics and one with female university students. Feedback to pharmacists to inform their continuing professional development was provided.

Main outcome measure: Scores on rating scales encompassing the clinical and communication skills of the participating community pharmacists completed immediately after each mystery shopper visit.

Results: 40 pharmacist visits were completed: 21 for scenario 1 and 19 for scenario 2. Eighteen pharmacists were visited twice. Five pharmacists visited for scenario 2 supplied EHC against professional guidance, although other reference sources conflicted with this advice. Pharmacies which were part of the local PGD scheme scored higher overall in scenario 1 (P = 0.005) than those not part of the scheme. Overall the communication skills of pharmacists were rated highly although some pharmacists used jargon when explaining the interaction for scenario 2.

Conclusion: Formatively assessing communication skills in an integrative manner alongside clinical skills has been identified as an important part of the medical consultation skills training and can be incorporated into the routine assessment and feedback of pharmacy over-the-counter medicines advice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Communication*
  • Community Pharmacy Services / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Simulation*
  • Pharmacists / standards*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Young Adult