Virtual patients and problem-based learning in advanced therapeutics

Am J Pharm Educ. 2010 Oct 11;74(8):143. doi: 10.5688/aj7408143.


Objective: To enhance student learning of a complex therapeutic concept through the incorporation of 2 case-based, active-learning strategies with lecture in a required advanced therapeutics course.

Design: A virtual patient session using a branched-outcome decision-making model and a problem-based learning (PBL) practica were developed from the course learning objectives for severe sepsis and septic shock. Following lecture of this material, students were required to complete the simulation session and attend the PBL.

Assessment: Student learning was assessed through review of examination scores, as well as quality and accuracy of the pharmaceutical care plan developed as part of the PBL. Satisfaction of the teaching format was assessed through a course evaluation survey. For questions pertaining to sepsis or septic shock on the final examination, the class average was 90%, despite an average of 76% on the examination as a whole. Class average for the pharmacuetical care plan was 90%. Sixty-three percent of students stated the simulation contributed to their learning, and 93% stated the PBL contributed to their learning.

Conclusion: Using a multifaceted teaching approach, combining active- and passive-learning strategies, was well received by students and fostered an effective learning environment.

Keywords: active learning; clinical decision making; problem-based learning; simulation; virtual patient.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Decision Making
  • Education, Pharmacy / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Humans
  • Patients
  • Pharmaceutical Services
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Sepsis / therapy
  • Shock, Septic / therapy
  • Teaching
  • Therapeutics*