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Virtual escape room helps nursing students learn clinical skills

College faculty use popular game to teach evidence-based care

Faculty and students continue to adapt to virtual learning across The Ohio State University. Now, faculty members in the College of Nursing are using some popular puzzles to help their undergraduate students get a virtual problem-solving experience.

“We were brainstorming some creative and innovative ways to check our students’ knowledge at the end of this semester and we came up with this digital escape room,” said Kady Martini, assistant professor of clinical practice. “We’ve heard of escape rooms in the classroom, and we thought, why not make it digital? We’re part of the Digital Flagship at the College of Nursing so we were trying to find a cool, creative way to incorporate that in our class.”

The exercise is similar to the popular escape room exercises in brick-and-mortar sites. The students are “locked in” and have to solve puzzles to get out of the room in a certain amount of time.

Tracy Taylor, assistant professor of clinical practice, said she and Martini were developing the escape room idea for about two months before the university moved to virtual learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just had to tweak and … modify it just a little bit. But it’s not really going to change the idea we had,” she said. “They would have just been doing it in a classroom … in person with their iPads. Now they’ll be doing it in breakout rooms through Zoom.”

In the escape room simulation, students explore the role of a nurse scientist while they are quarantined and on the clock to solve clinical problems before they can proceed to the next puzzle.

The escape room idea teaches nursing students to follow the seven steps of evidence-based practice. The method is a problem-solving approach to health care that combines scientific research and patient-care data with clinician expertise and patient preferences.

“They’ll get to practice by going to the health sciences library in the escape room and finding an article, and then they focus on the information that we’ve taught them about research and understanding research,” Martini said.

“It’s kind of a game, and they have to go through the game, but they are going to have to work together with their groups to solve the locks,” Taylor said.

Martini and Taylor said much of their classwork is online and incorporates iPads, so the transition to all virtual learning was a challenge – but not an insurmountable one. The virtual experience also offers a chance for students to connect as they continue to practice physical distancing.

“Hopefully it puts a fun spin on some of their work, because we know that they’re probably overloaded with the online stuff right now,” Taylor said. “If we’re able to do it live in the breakout rooms, they’re going to have some interaction and we’ll be able to see them in there, too. So it’s a little bit of social interaction and I think will be a positive right now.”

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