Practicing your pharmacy skills can be done online
‘On the first day, a patient came in and she was visible to everyone in the pharmacy on this big screen. And she had a question about a bacterial yeast infection’, Claudia Dantuma-Wering says, laughing.
Dantuma-Wering is a pharmacy lecturer as well as the coordinator for Gimmics (Groningen Institute Model for Management In Care Services), a game that teaches master students how to run their own pharmacy, including inventory management, doctor consultations, and the occasional upset customer.
In order to make everything look as real as possible, groups of students would normally decorate a small room in the building at the Antonius Deusinglaan to look like a pharmacy, with flyers and empty medication boxes. They would sit in that room every day, for five weeks. Now that the corona crisis has prevented this set-up, the game has moved online.
‘It’s good for them to learn how to do patient consultations online’, says Dantuma-Wering. ‘They might have to do it for real in the future.’
Gimmics was created at the UG twenty years ago, but it has been used at seven different universities, ranging from Brisbane to Vilnius, under the name Pharmacygame. Dantuma-Wering explains that leadership and responsibility are important skills in a pharmacy setting. Every day, a different student plays the boss.
Pharmacy student Nora Oving has just helped out a patient who had a headache. On the web cam, she shows the room she’s in. Her five fellow students wave. They’re seated far apart in an otherwise unfurnished room; the doors and windows are open. They did create a counter: a few tables pushed together, with a plastic screen to shield the students from the handful of actors who will stop by.
‘It feels very different’, says Nora, who once played a patient in the fake pharmacy and is now part of the Heinen Pharmacy team. ‘It doesn’t feel like a pharmacy. We’re here in person for only half the week. The rest of the time we’re at home.’ They have to clear the room every day because other people need it after them, which means they can’t decorate the place. ‘It’s kind of impersonal.’
It’s harder to read people’s facial expressions
Pelle Posthumus works at competing pharmacy Goedbloed. He’s having a hard time keeping track of all the online documents. ‘We’ve got a hundred tabs open at once. But I probably just need to get used to it. This is just the first day.’
‘I would’ve preferred talking to people in person rather than through a computer screen’, says Eyub Demirkol with pharmacy Van de Werf. ‘It’s harder to read people’s facial expressions and I’m never quite sure if they understand everything I say. You can’t read people’s body language either, or whether their feet are tapping, for instance. In real life, it’s much easier to see those signals that convey something is wrong.’
Nevertheless, it still feels kind of real, Nora says. ‘We’ve got a lot of orders in and we’re talking to real health care providers and suppliers. That makes everything a lot more realistic.’
Dantuma-Wering says there haven’t been many issues, apart from the internet connection being a little spotty sometimes. ‘We’ll get interference or accidentally talk over each other.’ It’s difficult to say where the issues come from. It could be the students’ laptops or the Wi-Fi in the building. ‘Eduroam doesn’t work everywhere.’
It was a lot of work to turn the game into an online version, says lecturer Christa de Vries-Vingerling. ‘There were eight or nine pages of issues we needed to take care of.’ All prescriptions had to be available digitally and the students weren’t allowed to see all of them at once, just a few each day.
Everything for the actors had to be made available online as well, ranging from the evaluation forms to the pharmacy visits themselves. The visits are now done through Collaborate. ‘That works really well for receiving foreign actors’, says De Vries-Vingerling.
Next year, Gimmics wants to design a new website which incorporates these changes. ‘One advantage is that we’re using much less paper. That was something we’d been working towards’, says Dantuma-Wering.
She does miss talking to her colleagues in the game room, which used to be bustling with people. ‘I do think the students appreciate being able to get together for those three days a week.’ Nora confirms. ‘We’re having a pretty good time around here. Don’t we?’ she asks her teammates. In the background, people agree. ‘We do.’