D. Hope, L. Hattingh, A. Haywood

Griffith University (AUSTRALIA)
Prescription dispensing is one of the core functions of a pharmacist. It is a complex process that involves a range of cognitive and manual steps. Ideally, pharmacy students first need to perform basic dispensing data processing functions before proceeding to more complicated clinical interpretation functions. From a training perspective, it is therefore important to introduce the various steps to pharmacy students in a sequential and systematic way. The aim of this project was to develop a blended learning tool to be utilised by pharmacy students over consecutive years of their program and to evaluate the impact of the tool on students’ knowledge, understanding and application of the dispensing process.

In 2010, third year pharmacy students at Griffith University were randomised into four study groups, each with differential access to an online dispensing guide. The guide consisted of two modules, demonstrating the stepwise actions required to interpret a prescription, initiate dispensing and systematically enter data. The study involved 128 students and through pre- and post-testing of their knowledge and understanding, the impact of the guide was evaluated as well as the effect of compulsory viewing sessions. The tool was then further enhanced to address more complex patient care dispensing functions, such as the recording of clinical patient interventions. The same cohort of students was exposed to the advanced guide in 2011. These 105 fourth year pharmacy students that participated were further evaluated through post-testing of their knowledge and perceptions of these dispensing functions. Ethical approval was granted by the Griffith University Human Ethics Committee.

The impact of the basic dispensing guide was considered significant (p-values for both modules were < 0.05). Matched-pairs signed-rank tests compared the mean ranks of the groups that had access to the guide with the control group that had no access. With regard to this basic dispensing guide, it was found that the groups with access were significantly different to the control group (p-values 0.001 and 0.009), demonstrating the effectiveness of the blended learning tool in improving dispensing procedure. Of the range of advanced dispensing functions later introduced to students, those functions of a clinical nature, such as Recording Patient Allergies and Recording Patient Interventions, were more highly valued by students than the advanced administrative functions, such as Modifying Safety Net (p < 0.05).

Results showed a significant improvement of students’ dispensing knowledge and skills due to implementation of the blended learning tool. Compulsory viewing of the basic guide further impacted on students’ knowledge gained and on their independent usage of the guide outside of structured workshop time. Importantly, student perceptions showed that those clinical functions of the advanced guide that have a direct impact on patient outcomes were more highly valued by students than administrative functions, and consequently more likely to be utilised by them in their future professional practice, thereby improving patient medication outcomes.