The small-group teaching including demonstrations, role-plays, and exercises with simulated clients facilitates practical learning and practice. In this way, we prepare pharmacy graduates to make sensible triage decisions and to communicate in a professional, outcome- and customer-oriented manner. The evaluations of these courses confirm the positive results.

Towards this end, the Department for Education and Media (AUM) at IML has designed and implemented two complementary small-group courses, including examinations, for the new Master's programme in Pharmacy, newly implemented in 2020, addressing triage and clinical skills and professional communication in pharmacy settings. These two courses are not only integrated with the preceding and accompanying lectures, but also with each other and were developed strictly interprofessionally together with colleagues from the Bern Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM) in order to also ensure relevance for everyday life in the pharmacy.

The aim of the triage and clinical skills course is to enable pharmacy students to select and apply appropriate examinations on the basis of information gathered from their advice seeking clients’ histories. These help them to triage a person seeking advice, whom they then care for and/or refer. The Swiss catalogue of learning objectives in pharmacy in accordance with the MedBG and sources from the Swiss Pharmacists' Association acted as orientation for teaching content. Lecturers experienced in pharmacy care helped to operationalise the contents into concrete learning objectives. Thus, the topics of «injections and vaccinations», «blood», «wound care», as well as various ENT, eye and skin examinations and the determination of vital signs were identified and implemented in the lessons.

The didactic implementation focuses on practical demonstrations and exercises, which is why preparation with scripts and instructional films prepared by the IML is obligatory. The topics are then taught in depth in a classroom setting: in a first session with demonstrations and dry runs, in a second session on each other and/or with simulated clients or simulators, all based on concrete case scenarios from everyday counselling situations in the pharmacy. Further cases for independent practice in the skillslab were created in consultation with GPs. In the faculty's skillslab (BiSS), eight rooms were specially re-designed as «simulation pharmacies». Clinical skills teaching takes place here and the rooms thus offer a natural training environment for future work. These lessons are supplemented by a formative mid-year OSCE. Assessment in the 5th year of study includes a summative OSCE examination, which not least also prepares students for the Federal Licensing Examination in Pharmacy.

In order to prepare students in the best possible way for their counselling work in the pharmacy, a communication training course was also designed and implemented. On the one hand, students should learn to communicate appropriately with all advice seeking individuals, on the other hand, they should also take into account specific characteristics of the person they are talking to (e.g., age, gender, personality traits, etc.).

In small teaching groups of up to a maximum of 9 students, so-called simulated persons (SP) are used to practise using communication according to established communication models in different situations. SP are persons who have been trained to portray a certain client role, including the symptoms of a disease or certain personality traits. The students practise different conversations, for example, on the topics of «patient education», «challenging emotional conversations», or «motivational interviewing». In the SP conversations, students are encouraged to self-reflect on their own conversation management through the simulated situations. In addition, after each teaching block, with the help of special tasks, the activity in the pharmacy is reflected through (observation) tasks. The communication training supports a basic attitude that is characterised by empathy, appreciation, acceptance of the other person with all their attitudes, a holistic view, commitment in contact, and professionalism.

The positive evaluation and effectiveness of the teaching blocks leave the multi-professional team (including medical educators, pharmacists and doctors), which was involved in the conceptualisation and implementation of the two teaching formats, quite delighted.

Dr. rer. medic. Tanja Hitzblech Scientific collaborator

+41 31 684 62 51
tanja.hitzblech (at)

Dr. med. et MME Daniel Bauer Deputy Head of AUM Department

+41 31 684 62 52
daniel.bauer (at)