York nursing professor receives prestigious teaching award

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Eva Peisachovich, assistant professor of Nursing in the Faculty of Health, has received the 2019 D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). The award, created in partnership with Desire2Learn (D2L), recognizes educators who are redefining the learning experience of students through innovative practices. The awards were announced April 29 by STLHE.

Eva Peisachovich

Peisachovich received the award for her work to incorporate innovation using simulation and simulated based milieus into the nursing curriculum and at the pan-University level. As a nurse and educator, Peisachovich says she has come across many people from all walks of life. This journey, she says, has taught her that people – be they patients or students – may forget the medication, treatments, tests or assignments they were given but they will remember other aspects of their encounters. “They will remember my approach to patient care or student learning,” says Peisachovich. “I have come to understand that empathy and emotion play a critical role in our ability to have a lasting impact in the context of teaching and learning. Developing empathy is a core element to developing emotional intelligence, which in turn sets the stage for becoming professionally competent.”

Peisachovich decided to marry scholarly work and innovative teaching with experiential education opportunities to enrich student learning, skills and empathy. Her path to introducing this new pedagogy to both nursing and interdisciplinary education began through various funding opportunities including two Academic Innovation Fund grants received in 2016 and 2017 through the Office of the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning and a recent grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Through this funding, collaboration and partnerships with the Office of the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning and Teaching Commons, she embarked on developing a multilayered approach to experiential education that emphasized the human component.

Will Gage

“Working with Eva to develop her many innovation projects over the years has been a special opportunity and we are all very proud of her successes and the recognition of this award,” says Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning at York University, Professor Will Gage.

The first aspect of this multilayered approach was to embed simulation as means to “humanize curricula.” Simulations are ways to engage students and to facilitate the construction of meaning and the development of a deeper understanding of the human experience. Peisachovich incorporates the use of simulated environments into her own teaching by employing tools such as role play, live simulators and simulated persons, high-technology simulators, virtual reality and eLearning platforms in the classroom. These simulated environments provide students with a more realistic sense of the complex situations they may encounter in their practice setting, as these encounters often differ from the textbook portrayal of such situations.

Peisachovich then enhanced the use of simulations with a second layer to this innovation, which was to expose simulation or Simulated Person Methodology to departments or disciplines outside the health professions including the arts, engineering, business, education, law and more. Finally, the third element to this innovation was a unique, full-fledged model for implementing the methodology across disciplines that will provide learners, including teachers and students, with the tools to apply simulation effectively across the curriculum and within an array of courses and programs.

The advantages to teaching, learning and the student experience of simulation and this cross-curriculum application, says Peisachovich, is that it offers a cost-efficient way to provide high-quality experiential learning to undergraduate students through an applied component within a course, which is a unique initiative within the academic community because it affords an inexpensive opportunity to provide high-quality experiential learning to undergraduates. “This is noteworthy, as the high costs of simulation traditionally have dissuaded its use in undergraduate classrooms beyond the health disciplines,” she says.

She published her approach and the resulting model in the journal Innovation in Teaching and Education in the article titled “Proposing and innovative and collaborative model to embed a simulated-person methodology program within higher education.”

The recognition from STLHE highlights the hard work that has gone into bringing her vision to fruition, says Peisachovich, which was made possible through the constant support she received from the Office of the Associate-Vice President Teaching & Learning and Will Gage, founding director of the Teaching Commons and Professor Celia Popovic, along with current Teaching Commons Director Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier, educational developers within the Teaching Commons and her colleagues across and beyond the university. “This award acknowledges our combined accomplishments and is to be celebrated as a collective effort,” she says.

Celia Popovic
Celia Popovic

“Her work is innovative, exciting and important. She [Peisachovich] engages both the students and faculty,” says Popovic. “Students are trained to be simulated persons (SPs). They take part in other courses where they play the part of relevant stakeholders such as customers or patients, enabling the students in the class they attend to have a simulated experience that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to experience … Faculty are supported in incorporating the methodology into their classroom and they and their students in the class benefit from the presence of SP students.”

And students agree. Those enrolled in NURS 1543 Health Assessment course offered in the fall 2017 semester wrote a letter of appreciation to the dean of the Faculty of Health at York University. “We consider ourselves lucky to have been enrolled in Professor Eva Peisachovich’s class as we got a chance to experience new teaching methods such as simulated persons and standardized patients in our course experience, and the experience to practice health assessments such as being exposed to the TTC [Toronto Transit Commission] disaster event both as SPs and clinicians. The simulated person experience brought nursing education closest to the real experience as different clinical cases such as TB [tuberculosis], injury from domestic violence, neurological and eye infections were presented … as nursing students, nothing helps us learn better than hands-on practice on a real human being.”

To learn more, visit the Simulated Person Methodology Lab website.