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Documenting trends in empathy and learning in a psychiatric pharmacotherapy course

1 January 2010


BACKGROUND: Presenting realistic and progressive patient story-lines in a Doctor of Pharmacy psychiatry course may help students integrate the traditional areas of focus with more humanistic concerns using reflective exercises. Documentation of students’ learning as it relates to empathy, sympathy, and social concern is difficult, but can be achieved with the use of open-ended exercises.

OBJECTIVE: Students were to respond to open-ended items asking them to:
1. Reflect on the case and write down the ONE MOST interesting concept you learned after reading the case and applying the lecture material to this patient.
2. Reflect on the case and write down ONE QUESTION you still have about the topic that would help you to give this patient better care as a clinician (to be discussed in class as we “close the loop”).

METHODS: Reflections were discussed in class the following day, collected and categorized into various areas of focus (e.g., social and patient-specific concerns, disease state management, pathogenesis and diagnosis, et cetera).

RESULTS: Students’ reflections were read by faculty and categorized in the following major focus/learning areas: 1) pathogenesis and diagnoses; 2) disease state management; 3) social and patient-specific concerns; and, 4) medication-specific uses and information. Student reflections showed students can learn traditional concepts, while appreciating more global social issues related to mental illness.


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