Actor-Based Triage Training for Pharmacy Students


  • Dominik Stämpfli Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Angela Küng Krähenmann Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Irene Vogel Kahmann Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Peter Wiedemeier Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Andreas Gutzeit Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland



Background and Purpose: Triaging as a service in pharmacies aims to direct clients towards the right care stream and reduce the workload of other care givers. It is also a prerequisite for newly extended pharmacists’ dispensing competencies. Triaging requires the application of clinical knowledge for quick decision-making and effective communication skills, which may be practiced in actor-based training. We aimed to evaluate our newly established actor-based trainings on acute respiratory and abdominal symptoms for pre-registration pharmacy students in terms of student feedback and effectiveness.

Educational activity and Setting: The trainings included passive lectures on history taking, clinical examination, and triage, and active learning segments involving case simulation with actors. Actors were recruited from a drama class and received training to establish their medical knowledge for improvised reactions. The simulations portrayed different personalities of pharmacy clients, which later included actors with little time and understanding for history taking. During the simulations, students had to diagnose the clinical pictures by themselves, applying their newly acquired knowledge. After the simulations, the focus was on mutual feedback between actors, students, and moderators with an emphasis on perspective change and communication. Simulations were held online. Evaluation data was collected with a feedback form and a pre-to-post questionnaire. A one-sided Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to compare students’ pre-to-post changes in self-reported confidence levels.

Findings: Students majorly described the training with the actors to be very realistic (70.0%); they felt comfortable, but still needed to get used to the situation (50.0%); they learned a lot about themselves (50.0%); and the feedback from the actors was found to be helpful (63.3%) and beneficial for learning about their own perceptions of other people (33.3%). The changes in self-reported confidence levels were statistically significant.

Summary: This evaluation showed that actor-based training can foster pharmacy students’ confidence in triaging of acute respiratory and abdominal symptoms, even when conducted virtually. Besides effectively promoting decision-making, working with actors additionally allowed to practise different communication styles and to confront students with various personalities of pharmacy clients.


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