Lectures incorporating videoconferencing technologies help create an informal but productive environment for both the speakers and the audience, which facilitates informal but meaningful communication. This learning technology facilitates the opportunity to interact with individuals free from the restrictions of time and travel. Skype lectures are an engaging complement to standard lectures as they sustain the audiences’ interest through breaking down the barriers between students and lecturers; this makes students more receptive to the speaker.
The first lecture utilising Skype invited an expert asthma patient to talk to the class. There might be barriers that prevent patients from physically attending the sessions in-person, but videoconferencing technologies allow us to engage with a diverse range of patients with various clinical manifestations. They also provide a platform for patients to help students in their learning. It is getting increasingly difficult to gain work experience that involves interaction with ‘real’ patients that may help Pharmacy students develop their consultation and communication skills. The use of Skype in the classroom offers a convenient medium to address that challenge. It enabled a large group of students to learn how to develop patient-centred care, especially from a patient’s perspective. The patient who joined us for the session did so from the comfort of their own home. They were more relaxed than they might have been in person and expressed genuine emotions regarding their long-term health condition, family pressures and the attitude of healthcare professionals towards them. Communication with a patient, rather than academics, emphasised how patients’ lives are in the hands of healthcare professionals and how these professionals have the ability to make a positive impact.
The exercise concluded with a Q&A session. Many students were interested in posing questions to a ‘real’ patient talking to them. The description of the difficulties of managing their asthma resonated with many students. Furthermore, it enabled us to value and appreciate the patient for opening up as this can put them in a vulnerable position. We felt that within a short space of time a connection was built between the students and the patient. Our lecturer asked us before the lecture to note how the patient communicated their emotions. As a result we were able to empathise with the patient throughout the lecture. Often healthcare professionals don’t leave adequate time for patients to gather their thoughts. The format of a Skype lecture allowed ample opportunity for the patient to speak without interruption and communicate everything they wanted to. This imparted a personal and genuine touch to the lecture which is difficult to achieve in a standard lecture setting as speakers might tend to be nervous. I actually learnt a valuable lesson from the patient to not be judgmental but rather to encourage others in vulnerable positions. That is something that will stay with me.
Lectures incorporating Skype are also useful for understanding the context behind the clinical knowledge we have learnt. Having a ‘real’ patient recounting their experience of difficulties with long-term asthma and expressing their fear for the future makes me want to be the best Pharmacist I possibly can. Furthermore, this was the first time a Skype lecture was delivered to Pharmacy students. I felt more engaged with the session and respected this patient for making an effort to talk to us. Our lecturer and patient organised the Skype lecture without revealing any details which maintained our interest throughout the session. The experience was particularly effective because our regular lecturer gave us a few pointers in advance on the aims of the session to ensure we were focused but also kept an element of surprise as we weren’t entirely sure on what to expect.
I believe interacting with patients with different clinical conditions, using Skype, will be highly beneficial in the future in order to develop a patient-centred approach to deliver ‘duty of care’ to patients. It provides a safer environment for learning unlike a real-life experience where I might be more concerned about the consequences of my actions. I can see Skype lectures also being used to engage with healthcare professionals from other disciplines as well as specialist centers for certain medical conditions. The format also allows for the opportunity to gain an insight into what healthcare is like in the UK and beyond. The technology could also develop Bath University’s networks further – enabling students access to locations for the fourth-year projects abroad as well as to potential employers for the pre-registration year.
Overall, lectures involving Skype are a dynamic, innovative way of delivering lectures whereby academic learning can be applied to real-life scenarios making it more relatable and memorable for students. I enjoyed the session and believe it provides much-needed context on why we learn the science behind medicines. Interacting with patients who receive medicines which we deliver truly shows the positive influence pharmacists can have on a patient’s life.