Volume 20 | issue nº 2 Summer 2018

A Most Thorough Education

By Louisa Ajami

More in this issue

LAU's School of Pharmacy is a leader of pharmacy education in the region. Implementing OSCEs in its curriculum further increases its academic standing."

Healthcare professionals have more than just their daily tasks to think about when they go to work, as they carry people’s lives in their hands. That is why it is critical to test budding pharmacists across a wide range of medical-professional skills before sending them off into their careers.

In an effort to modernize its pedagogical approaches and prepare practice-ready graduating students, LAU’s School of Pharmacy (SOP) is integrating the use of Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) into its curriculum. In essence, OSCEs are a form of performance-based assessment that measure health-science students’ ability to apply clinical skills and knowledge previously learned from a unit of study while performing in a simulated clinical environment.

Unlike other evaluation methods within the pharmacy profession, OSCEs measure high-order thinking, non-verbal and verbal communication, teamwork, and other soft skills following pre-established performance criteria. Major global health science schools have been increasingly adopting OSCEs in their curricula, citing the examinations as the best way of assessing students’ competency in areas of their work that cannot be measured by standard oral or written exams.

“A slow, well-thought-out implementation with simulation, followed by low-stakes assessment that evolves to high-stakes testing builds a culture of faculty commitment and student satisfaction with the learning process,” says Lamis Karaoui, clinical associate professor and director of Experiential Education at the SOP.

Implementing OSCEs is a lengthy process that requires substantial resources, according to Karaoui. As such, the SOP is currently piloting OSCEs in the newly launched Special Topics in Emergency Medicine elective course for 22 third-year pharmacy (P3) students, “the results of which will pave the way for a broader OSCE inclusion in the curriculum.”  

During an OSCE, examinees rotate through a series of time-based stations, at which they interview, examine and treat standardized patients who present with some type of medical or medication-related problem. The students are evaluated by one or more examiners at each station using predetermined tools to ensure objectivity. The student, evaluator and standardized patient provide feedback, which is the heart and soul of OSCEs and aims to improve student learning.

The impact of OSCEs on students’ skillset is noteworthy, says Clinical Assistant Professor Yara Kuyumjian. “Stations during testing include obtaining the best possible medication history, developing a pharmacist-care plan for a medical emergency, assisting in medication preparation and administration, and providing patient education.”

Students who pass the test, she said, “are able to apply their interpersonal and communication skills by interacting with trained standardized patients.” 

“We are very much looking forward to having OSCEs as part of our curriculum,” says Clinical Associate Professor Aline Saad. “We offer to our students the best of learning and testing, so they will be the most qualified and competent graduates in the field.” 

LAU’s SOP is a leader of pharmacy education in the region. It is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and its Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program is the only one outside the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Adding OSCEs to its roster further increases the SOP’s standing.

LAU’s Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing, and the Nutrition and Dietetics Coordinated Program also use OSCEs as part of their curricula. Moreover, Clinical Simulation Center Associate Director Nadia Asmar delivered educational sessions to SOP faculty and helped secure standardized patients for the OSCEs. A number of faculty have also completed a diploma in clinical simulation in collaboration with the School of Medicine.

By adopting such state-of-the-art examinations in its health science schools, LAU ensures students receive a robust and well-rounded education that keeps patients’ safety and comfort in mind.