Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Impact of a Standalone, Patient-Centered Communication Course Series on Student Achievement, Preparedness, and Attitudes

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Impact of a Standalone, Patient-Centered Communication Course Series on Student Achievement, Preparedness, and Attitudes

Article excerpt


The ability to effectively communicate with patients, their family members, and other health care providers is an essential skill in being a successful pharmacist in any practice setting. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in 1997 titled Preparing the Pharmacist of the Future: Curricular Development. In this report they described seven essential roles of the pharmacist, one of which was "communicator." (1) Since the publication of this report, the emphasis on developing effective communication skills has continued to grow in importance within the practice of pharmacy.

The most recent Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) outcomes as well as the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) standards and guidelines state that graduates must be able to "effectively communicate verbally and nonverbally when interacting with individuals, groups, and organizations." (2,3) There is, however, a lack of consensus on how to best incorporate the teaching and learning of communication skills into pharmacy curricula in order to achieve these outcomes.

In 2006, Kimberlin surveyed US colleges and schools of pharmacy to determine current practices in assessing students' communication skills and found that communication activities and assessment methods varied significantly. Results from the survey also identified faculty concerns regarding lack of continuity across the curriculum. (4) Furthermore, a recent literature review concluded that there is a general lack of published research in the area of communication skills within pharmacy education, and a need for additional research to identify the most effective teaching and learning methods that demonstrate improvement in student pharmacist communication skills. (5) In addition, continual curricular assessment, including obtaining student perceptions and feedback, is essential to maintain quality pharmacy programs and to meet ACPE standards.

In 2012, the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS) renewed their curriculum, which included a newly developed, standalone PCC course series. Prior to 2012, communication skills and assessments were incorporated into a larger course series focused on developing multiple skills, one of which was communication. Although communication skills were addressed at various times throughout this prior course series, students were not exposed to a systematic approach focused on learning and mastering communication skills. The renewed curriculum includes two required, standalone courses that are integrated with pharmacotherapy courses and introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPEs) in the first professional year, which focus on the development and assessment of student communication skills through a combination of teaching and learning methods. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the impact of this curricular change on student achievement of and perceived preparedness for PCC skills and to assess student attitudes regarding learning methods used in the course series.


The PCC course series was comprised of the PCC 1 course and the PCC2 course, which were required, worth three credits each, and offered in fall and spring semesters of the first professional (P1) year of the PharmD curriculum. The courses were developed in 2011-2012 and offered for the first time in 2012 as part of a renewed curriculum. In the prior curriculum, communication skills were taught in a five-semester professional skills development course series that also included self-care pharmacotherapy, drug information skills, and dispensing-related activities. The PCC course series represented a more focused approach and was designed to assist students in refining their communication skills with patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers to ensure the achievement of optimal patient outcomes. A patient-centered approach was taken in developing the content and activities. …

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