Escaping Monotony with Master Mentor Dr. Heidi Eukel!

Dr. Heidi Eukel takes us through a number of fresh ideas on interactive learning and shares how to avoid pitfalls she encountered while experimenting with learning games the first time around. In her own words: "I’ve been a professor (ugh, that word makes me feel old and boring) at my alma mater since 2009.

I have the COOLEST teaching job ever – I practice in a licensed pharmacy that does not serve real patients – I take 15 student groups through 2-hour simulations on a weekly basis.

My expertise (in my fake pharmacy) include MTM, dispensing, consultation, community pharmacy practice, and communication.

I LOVE integrating pop culture into my teaching techniques – escape rooms, amazing race, minute-to-win-it, etc.

My best tip for faculty: show the students that you’re human… I open lectures with a picture of my children being ridiculous (crying over the same toy, playing a trick on me, my clothing covered in baby food, etc.)

My current research is: escape rooms in education (nursing education, pharmacy education, interprofessional healthcare education) AND engaging pharmacists in the opioid epidemic (I received a $120,000 grant from ND Human Services, taking a project state-wide now!)

Show Notes:

Escaping Monotony with Master Mentor Dr. Heidi Eukel

L: Hi everyone and welcome to Two Pills Podcast. I am so excited to have Dr. Heidi Eukel with us. She has been a professor at her alma mater since 2009, but just because she is a professor, does not mean that she is old and boring. She actually has the coolest teaching job ever. She practices in a licensed Pharmacy that does not serve real patients. She takes 15 student groups through simulations on a weekly basis. Her expertise includes MTM, dispensing, consultation, Community Pharmacy practice, and communication. She loves integrating pop culture into her teaching techniques, which I am super excited to talk about. Hopefully we talk about her Escape rooms, Amazing Race, and Minute to Win It. Her current research is in Escape rooms in education. She covers a lot of different types of Education including Nursing, Pharmacy, and interprofessional Healthcare as well as engaging pharmacists in the opioid epidemic. She received a $120,000 Grant from North Dakota Human Services and she is taking a project Statewide-so welcome Dr Eukel!

H: Thank you very much! I am excited to be here today!

L: Would you be able to tell us a little bit about yourself and your teaching Style?

H: I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Exploring that Avenue of healthcare education was a little rocky for me. My expertise is in Community Pharmacy practice. My teaching is focused around motivating students to connect with their patients and to take that next step to be a pharmacist that makes a change.

L: When did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?

H: When you are starting college at 18 years old, it is difficult to know what type of professional you want to be. Through lots of job shadowing, I found that Pharmacy was very intriguing to me. Teaching was always also very intriguing to me, so this was a perfect marriage of the two.

L: I am so excited about all of your creative activities, including your Escape rooms. Can you tell us about a time when a teaching strategy went surprisingly well and then one that did not go well?

H: I will start with an activity that did not go so well, I created an activity in which students worked in small groups. I acted as the patient and then 15 students were collecting information on me. This activity was delayed from the lecture in which students learned about how to make recommendations on self-care. The students would then make individual recommendations to me and then as a group come up with a group recommendation for me. In my mind, this made perfect sense. It included individualized education as well as group consensus. It also included some justification, debate, etc. It actually turned out that no one was prepared to make those recommendations. They were all over the board. It was just so far out from their didactic education on these topics.

L: So were you able to repeat that another time or make changes related to that to make it effective?

H: I have and this is what we are planning for this year. I used a technique that I learned from one of my colleagues called “read me.” I created a Word document called read me. It is all about what I need to do next time to make an activity better. I type it up quickly right after the activity and then I review it before implementing the activity the following year.

One thing that went well for me is something that I piloted two years ago. It is in the area of communication. I often have Pharmacy student counsel each other in my Pharmacy. While they may think that they sound great, they may be using words that patients do not understand. Therefore, I implemented a self and peer assessment. They record themselves counseling. They pull up the rubric that I use and then assess themselves counseling. I also take that video footage and assign it to another student. It is random and Anonymous, but they also have to evaluate it. They have to provide detailed feedback. None of it is worth a grade, but it is all just formative feedback. I have seen it really help our student’s comfort and ability to counsel.

L: With all of your different hats, what would you say is your favorite part of your job?

H: My absolute favorite part of my career is mentoring students. I love seeing them choose what path they are going to take and reminding them that your path right after graduation is not a permanent decision.

I also really love writing up the manuscripts for the research that I have done. The first few that I did were really hard and collaboration was very important. Now, after riding that bike for a while, it feels so much more natural. It is really fun to share what you are doing. It is great to connect with Pharmacy faculty around the country and around the world. It is exciting.

L: Where do you get all of your great ideas?

H: From my colleagues. Part of the difficulty is engaging students. They are very comfortable with boring PowerPoint lectures. They are not as comfortable in a pharmacy setting where they are performing in front of their peers and faculty. If I can engage them in the learning and they feel like it is fun and contemporary, that breaks down some of those barriers. When they are engaged in something like this, they actually remember it. They are able to tie the information to the activity, Rather than learning it from a slide. I work with a very creative team who is always willing to try new things.

L: If someone feels daunted about creating an escape room, do you have any advice for them?

H: Educational gaming is one of my passions. However, I have no interest in board games or video games. I think we all tend to design things off of our interest. Mine are mostly immersion games. How can we create puzzles to make these educational outcomes come to life? I would suggest going to the literature because there is a ton on educational gaming. You can reach out to someone and ask him or her questions about how they did it. My biggest tip on educational gaming is to trial it.

L: If you were mentoring a brand new faculty member, what information do you wish you had on your first day?

H: I started teaching when I was 23. I was younger than a lot of my students. I felt like I needed to come in and set the professionals and standard and the expectation standard. The pharmacy students perceived that as me being rigid. Do not forget to show the students that you are human. I think it allows them to connect with me and show that I am not perfect either.

L: Do you have any books or resources that have been helpful to you along the way?

H: One of my biggest resources has been my colleagues. This can be my colleagues here, colleagues and special interest groups, or even grabbing business cards when I am in a meeting. I tend to learn best from other people.

L: My last question for you is what is your overall prescription for success and happiness in this career and in general?

H: My best prescription is work-life balance. When I am in the office, I am all there. Likewise, when I am at home, I am home. I am devoted to my family, my church, and my hobbies. My time is devoted to the other things that I choose to have in my life.