RESEARCH ARTICLE: Distance assessment of counselling skills using virtual patients during the COVID-19 pandemic




Distance, Counselling, Virtual Patient Simulator, Experimental Education, Constructivism


Background: Reports on using virtual patients to assess counselling skills is scarce. Aim: This paper describes the feasibility and acceptability of assessing patient counselling skills of pharmacy students using a virtual patient simulator.

Description: In this innovative method, a high quality simulator ‘Virtual Patient Learning’ (VPL) was developed at Gulf Medical University (GMU) and was used to assess the counselling skills of 15 pharmacy graduate students. Counselling skills were measured using a four-domain scoring rubric of 1 to 5 marks followed by instant feedback for improvements. Student and faculty satisfaction scores were collected based on the feasibility and acceptability of the assessment method.

Evaluation: The average counselling skills score for all students was 68.4 (85.5%) out of 80 (range 54-76), with a standard deviation of 5.8. The overall student agreement on the feasibility and acceptability of the assessment method was 92.8%; it was 100% agreement for faculty.

Conclusion: The use of a high quality VPL simulator in assessing counselling skills was deemed feasible and acceptable for students and faculty. The assessment was repeated among 30 Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) graduates with similar outcomes. The virtual counselling method will be used in the programme exit exams, as well as in students entering their experiential year. Further studies are required to assess its validity and reliability with more students.

Author Biographies

Semira A Beshir, Gulf Medical University, United Arab Emirates

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice

Seeba Zachariah, Gulf Medical University, United Arab Emirates

Clinical Lecturer - Department of Pharmacy Practice

Kishore G S Sundararaj, Gulf Medical University, United Arab Emirates

Associate Professor - Pharmacy Practice

Hossam Hamdy, Gulf Medical University, United Arab Emirates



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COVID-19 Research Paper