Pharmacy School Lessons in Role Reversal

Students at a pharmacy school in Rochester, New York experienced a day in the life of someone that few consider as they complete their pharmacy classes with optimistic dreams of a future in the pharmacy industry.

Students at St. John Fisher’s School of Pharmacy experienced for the first time what it is like to be a member of the deaf community when trying to navigate through the country’s established health care system.

As part of the exercise, the students at the pharmacy school made their way through several scenarios set up in the school’s atrium that looked, felt, and sounded like a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, an emergency room at a hospital, and a psychiatry department. The twist, however, was that all of the staff members were played by members of New York’s deaf community so no one could use spoken words to communicate their needs and wants.

This is the third year in a row that the pharmacy school has subjected their first-year students to the training exercise; one which promises to stay with them throughout their careers in the industry. The role playing is intentionally designed to be aggravating and uncomfortable for the students to mimic the real-scenarios and emotions that a deaf person can experience in the medical and health related settings.

Students that participated in the training agreed that the experience was impactful and teaches a level of empathy that they may not otherwise have felt when dealing with members of the deaf community.

To pull of the training event, the pharmacy school works in coordination with the Deaf Strong Hospital, created by the School of Medicine and Dentistry and in collaboration with the National Center for Deaf Health Research. The pharmacy school at St. John Fishers adapted the program and first began student training in 2009.