Qualitative evaluation of how a virtual dementia experience impacts medical and pharmacy students’ self-reported knowledge and attitudes towards people with dementia

Julia F-M Gilmartin-Thomas, John McNeil, Anne Powell, Daniel T. Malone, Ian C. Larson, Claire L. O’Reilly, Carl M. Kirkpatrick, Eva Kipen, Tanya Petrovich, Taliesin E. Ryan-Atwood, J. Simon Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: It is important for healthcare professional students to understand the experience of people with dementia, their family, and their carers. Despite person-centred educational policies, current curriculums may not adequately prepare students to meet the needs of people with dementia. This study qualitatively evaluated the impact of a virtual dementia experience on medical and pharmacy students’ self-reported knowledge and attitudes towards people with dementia. Methods: Ten focus groups were conducted with 29 medical and 24 pharmacy students in September and October 2016. All students had undertaken a multisensory virtual dementia experience designed to simulate the cognitive and perceptual difficulties faced by people with dementia. Focus groups were used to evaluate the virtual dementia experience in terms of perceived usefulness, suggestions for improvement, and ability to inform students’ understanding of dementia-friendly environments. Focus groups were audio-recorded and analysed via a thematic approach. Results: The virtual dementia experience was described as useful and impactful, and students suggested how it could be more tailored towards their learning needs, such as via incorporating hospital, medical, and pharmacy-specific scenarios and opportunities for role play. Additionally, students explained how dementia-friendly communication techniques could be used in their future practice and provided strategies to optimise dementia-friendly characteristics of current work environments. Conclusion: A virtual dementia experience improved student self-reported knowledge and attitudes towards people with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-220
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • dementia
  • education
  • medicine
  • pharmacy

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