AORN Blog - The Periop Life


3 Ways to Make OR Learning Fun


Make OR Learning Fun

March 15, 2020

An Escape Room challenge brings a small team of people together to solve puzzles that unlock clues to escape a room. While Escape Room challenges are normally seen on game shows, the underlying concept of gamification for learning could be coming to an OR near you.

That’s because perioperative nurse educators looking for new ways to engage staff in annual skills education are using gamification to help OR teams learn together.

According to the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, “game play focuses and controls our attention, taps into our innate strengths, thrills us utterly, and compels us to greater resilience in the attainment of more powerful and effective skills.”

Gamify Learning

Last year Stephanie Covel, MN, RN, CNOR, RNFA, perioperative clinical nurse specialist at the University of Washington Medicine, Northwest Campus in Seattle, Wash., and Suzanne Grau MSN, MEd, RN, decided to implement Escape Room education after learning about nurse colleagues in Kentucky who found improved skills demonstration with a similar approach.

“We have been doing annual skill courses for years at our hospital and were ripe to find a new and effective mode of education that would engage nurses of all ages,” Covel says.

They created Escape Room education with specific operating room scenarios, clue cards, and skill-specific puzzles for several practice areas.

One of the more difficult puzzles they created has a component requiring application of a foam dressing to prevent healthcare-acquired pressure injuries (HAPI). “The nurses had to physically apply the dressing to the manikin to get one of the necessary clues to complete the puzzle,” she explains. “This hands-on practice, combined with the game-like atmosphere, required review of policy and encouraged discussion during an activity debrief.”

After the learning experience, they found that participating nurses had an increase in knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to HAPI. 

Learn from Others

Covel has since created learning materials for several Escape Room learning activities in her ORs and has picked up some helpful tricks to run the education for maximum learning potential. Here are three lessons she has learned:

  1. Start Simple
    Using gamification in healthcare education can be time consuming in the beginning to match an appropriate puzzle with an appropriate skill, she cautions. Look to AORN guidelines and your policies for essential skills, such as taking the right steps for hand hygiene, to shape your first Escape Room puzzle.
  1. Know Your Audience
    Be prepared to prep your nurses for the activity before you actually run the scenario because “using gamification to help nurses learn or refresh skills is a newer idea that can make some staff uncomfortable in the beginning,” Covel recommends.
  1. Do Your Homework (and Ask for Help)
    Explore the literature on gamification in healthcare and in education to find key strategies for applying it to change behavior, such as giving players the independence to make their own decisions, she suggests.
    “Many nurses are catching on to using escape rooms and gamification for learning and are willing to share their puzzles and experiences (like us!).”

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