It looks like a normal pharmacy with people in white coats checking prescriptions and dispensing medicines. But if you look a little closer, the bottles in the controlled drugs cabinet contain coloured water and the patients asking for medical advice are reading out their symptoms from a laminated A4-sheet. This is Kingston University’s new £420,000 Pharmacy Practice Laboratory, a purpose-built facility for pharmacy students to practice their skills before going to work in the health service.
Based at the University’s Penrhyn Road campus, in South West London, the new centre boasts 40 drug-dispensing stations, a pharmacy counter and consulting area. There are also computers connected to the Nexphase system used in many local pharmacies.
“It is important for students to practice working in real-life situations as well as gaining a thorough theoretical grounding of science and chemistry,” said Professor Chris Cairns, from Kingston’s School of Pharmacy and Chemistry. “The new pharmacy lab allows students to experience what it is like in a real pharmacy. We use role-play so they can practice scenarios which they will go on to face in the workplace.”
Students have to go through the same checks they would make in a real pharmacy and advise pretend patients on how to take their prescriptions. They analyse prescriptions to check they have been filled in correctly by doctors and check out clinical issues such as how one medicine might interact with another, a situation that could lead to a medicine not working or a patient suffering unwanted side effects.
“It’s much more realistic than our old laboratory,” said third-year pharmacy student Roohil Yusuf, aged 22, from Leicester, said. “We’ve got resources at our finger tips and we’re working with software used in practices. The individual prescribing bays let us practice working independently too which is something we’ll have to do when we get a job.”
Students brush up on their people and diagnostic skills through role plays, taking it in turns to play the patient describing a list of ailments for their fellow students to diagnose. “Graduates need to be able to talk to patients confidently and effectively to extract all the information they need to make an assessment of the illness and to help to reassure the patient,” Professor Cairns added. Jamie Wilkinson, aged 25, from Slough, agreed: “Working in the new pharmacy has really prepared me for my work placement. The role plays help us to check our clinical knowledge and use our communication skills. It’s almost like we are out there working with patients.”
Finishing touches are still taking place to the centre and a hospital bed area is due to be added this summer. The new facilities are now being used by around 430 first, second, third and fourth year students studying on the MPharm masters degree. From next year the facility will also be used by students on the newly accredited foundation degree in pharmaceutical and chemical sciences.