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Am J Pharm Educ. 2012 Dec 12;76(10):203. doi: 10.5688/ajpe7610203.

Active-learning diabetes simulation in an advanced pharmacy practice experience to develop patient empathy.

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  • 1Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn, AL, USA.



To develop and integrate an active-learning diabetes simulation into an advanced pharmacy practice experience to improve pharmacy students' empathy toward patients with diabetes mellitus.


Students simulated the experience of having diabetes mellitus by conducting activities commonly prescribed to those with this disease state for 7 days, after which they submitted a standardized diabetes log and narrative reflection. Interpretive phenomenology design with thematic analysis was used to determine the impact of this experience on the students.


As shown in student reflections, 95% developed empathy, 97% found the experience beneficial, and 67% improved their ability to relate to and counsel patients. Most (95%) found difficulty adhering to the regimen. On average, students consumed 179 grams of carbohydrates per day and exercised 5 days or 215 minutes per week. Additionally, 69% decided to modify their personal habits to become healthier.


Inclusion of the 7-day active-learning exercise greatly impacted student pharmacists' self-reported empathy toward and ability to relate to patients with diabetes mellitus. Completion of this experience may result in long-lasting personal behavior modifications.


active learning; advanced pharmacy practice experience; diabetes mellitus; empathy; public health; simulation

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