Original Publication
Open Access

Role-Playing Activity Exploring the Effects of Age-Related Polypharmacy with a Focus on Interprofessional Collaboration

Published: June 11, 2015 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10117

Included in this publication:

  • Appendix A Instructor's Guide.docx
  • Appendix B Activity Instructions.docx
  • Appendix C Simulation Roles.docx
  • Appendix D Medication Charts.docx
  • Appendix E Medication Cards.docx
  • Appendix F Drug Interactions Chart.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


The use of multiple prescription drugs, termed polypharmacy, has been found to be a significant risk factor for morbidity and mortality among the elderly and thus should be monitored vigilantly. This role-playing activity was created by medical students as part of a student-led, small-group, active-learning session focused on polypharmacy. Simulation role-play is grounded in a variety of educational theories, including experiential learning, reflective practice, and a constructivist view of learning. This activity stimulates group engagement with the material, reflective opportunities in the role of patient and/or provider, and shared development and discovery of the risks and complications of polypharmacy. It also explores interprofessional collaboration. The activity is broken into three rounds, and participants act as physicians, patients, or a pharmacist. In each round, patients must visit the physicians and get prescriptions, after which the pharmacist tells the patients of any side effects they may experience from their prescribed drug regimen. Each round, the rules change slightly, allowing the physicians and patients to share more information in an effort to reduce side effects through enhanced collaboration. The activity was implemented with 11 participants, which is the recommended number generally. Using this interactive role-play game, students engage with and explore the difficulties that patients, prescribers, and pharmacists encounter when keeping track of multiple medications. In addition, the exercise highlights the challenge of communication between providers in the care of patients with varying medical comorbidities and drug-drug interactions. A strength of this exercise is its applicability to a wide range of learners at various levels of training within an interprofessional educational context. The role-play mimics real-life patient experiences and health system issues.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this activity, learners will be able to:

  1. Understand the occurrence of polypharmacy, particularly in geriatric populations.
  2. Identify challenges arising from managing polypharmacy for individuals with multiple medical conditions.
  3. Identify opportunities for effective communication between multiple providers who are involved with the care of a single patient.
  4. Understand the difficulties in prescribing various medications based on contraindications, drug-drug interactions, and patient characteristics.
  5. Identify process improvements based on the challenges experienced during the simulated exercise.

Author Information

  • Andrew Plaska: University of Michigan Medical School
  • Vadim Rosin: University of Michigan Medical School
  • Caren Stalburg, MD, MA: University of Michigan Medical School

None to report.

None to report.


Plaska A, Rosin V, Stalburg C. Role-playing activity exploring the effects of age-related polypharmacy with a focus on interprofessional collaboration. MedEdPORTAL. 2015;11:10117. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10117