University at Buffalo escapes the mundane by injecting gamification into their simulation program




 Students (from left) Noah Bourne, Samantha Manahan, Allyson Raditic and Ebne Rafi learn they had "saved" Patient X. Photo: Douglas Levere

At the University at Buffalo School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has taken the traditional escape room to the next level. Escape rooms have reached the college classroom.

To improve teamwork and communication between nursing and pharmacy students, the University at Buffalo School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have turned to the popular, mystery-themed game for interprofessional training.

Rather than a prison cell or abandoned home, groups of students are placed in a simulation medical clinic. Their goal: Solve various puzzles to discover what ails their patient and provide the proper treatment. Similar to other escape rooms, the UB room, named Patient X, features riddles, puzzles, combination locks and invisible ink. The game will highlight critical lessons surrounding infection control, patient restraint and medication safety. 

“Most people do escape rooms for entertainment, but they are also an objective way to evaluate teamwork and communication, something that we’ve struggled to do in our simulations,” said Kelly Foltz-Ramos, PhD, research assistant professor and director of simulation in the UB School of Nursing.

“Our room is not meant to be overly difficult. It’s meant to educate, and teach students to appreciate each other’s strengths. Thirty minutes is a short period of time, but if they are successful, it could make a big difference everywhere, including the workplace.”

The game will occur in conjunction with a home health care simulation, allowing UB researchers to study the impact of the escape room on student performance. Students will also take part in a simulation of a home health care meeting, similar to what they will encounter in the field. During the meeting, students must work together to understand a patient’s adverse reaction to an incorrect dosage of medication and build a plan of recommendation for health care providers.

Of the 250 students to participate, half will complete the simulation first, the other will begin with the escape room. Students will be divided into groups of four – two from each school — and will receive 30 minutes to solve each the game and simulation.

Participants will complete a survey after the simulation, regardless of whether they completed the escape room. The results will help the researchers determine the effectiveness of team building exercises on performance and perceptions surrounding teamwork in interprofessional training. Foltz-Ramos organized the game, simulation and study with Nicholas Fusco, PharmD, clinical associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Fusco said, “By creating learning experiences during their training where they can interact with other professional students, they can begin to build respectful relationships, understand each other’s professional roles and responsibilities, understand the values of each profession and practice working together as a team, with the ultimate goal of improving the health and wellness of individual patients and the community.”