Empathy Training Provides Insight into Patients' Struggles

Touro students use immersive training to develop disability understanding for patient-centered perspectives.

November 06, 2023
A pharmacy student wearing a weighted vest and glasses that simulate poor vision is guided on a walker by another pharmacy student.

Popcorn kernels are not the type of teaching equipment you would imagine in a medical course, but they are a core tool to build experiential understanding.

The popcorn kernels were used to simulate walking pain by inserting a pinch in each shoe and using a cane or walker to get down the hall and back. Touro University California’s day-long seminar, Empathy Training Day is designed to give College of Pharmacy students insight into the challenges faced by many patients. The simulations provide insight into the ordeals faced by vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with disabilities.

The training uses special equipment to simulate vision, hearing, dexterity and mobility limitations. This allowed students to experience the difficulty some patients have with mobility, reading medication labels, opening packages, and filling out forms. It was eye-opening for students to see how tiring and frustrating these simple tasks can become.

This hands-on training accompanied a health systems and patient communication course aimed at promoting cultural competence and understanding of health disparities. The course covers topics like private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, community health centers and medication assistance programs. Students learn how hard it can be to navigate our complex healthcare system. The empathy training brought these issues to life.

By understanding patients' physical, emotional, and financial challenges, students can provide higher quality, more compassionate care. They will have more empathy for an elderly patient who struggles to the pharmacy counter. The training impressed upon them that difficulty completing everyday tasks can understandably impact patients' moods and spirits.

Experiencing health system barriers firsthand will make students more cognizant of patients' needs. TUC is committed to graduating socially conscious pharmacists ready to serve vulnerable and underserved populations. Empathy Training teaches students to see through patients' eyes so they can better serve our diverse communities.