The Center for Simulation and Education Enhancement helps design engaging learning environments despite the barriers presented by the pandemic
Amid difficult learning conditions, UC Davis Health faculty have been brainstorming tactics to keep doctors, medical students and nurses engaged and motivated throughout their training. As a part of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse training program, one session designed by Michelle Linenberger, a UC Davis Children’s Hospital nurse educator and professional development specialist, has made progress in helping nurses learn in a fun environment: an escape room-style simulation.
“Especially with the stress of the pandemic and intensity level so high at the hospital, it’s nice to come together and create a fun learning environment to keep people excited and renewed for work in healthcare,” Linenberger said.
Having worked in the PICU nurse training program for several years, Linenberger described the program to include lectures from PICU physicians and nurses in addition to the simulation portion. She ran her first escape room session last year and continued to add on to her design to help students through the often stressful simulations.
“Simulations sometimes can be a stressful learning environment, and you want to balance supporting them but you want to try and create that real patient environment as best you can,” Linenberger said.
Linenberger explained that the intensity of the escape room simulates what it’s like performing under pressure when taking care of a sick child while also allowing the new nurses to apply what they have learned from lectures. She emphasized how she enjoyed seeing the participants learn how to problem-solve, collaborate and communicate effectively through the simulation.
Courtini Sladek, a nurse in the PICU at UC Davis Health, explained that she was excited to experience an escape game related to nursing, as she often enjoys escape-style games with her husband. She explained that the escape room simulation challenged her knowledge and taught her new aspects about her position in a way that was enjoyable and entertaining.
“The escape game took the pressure off and turned what is normally a stressful activity into something that was fun and engaging, and it left me wanting to do another,” Sladek said.
Sladek explained that at the beginning of the session, the nurses were given a brief description of asthma patients that they would be treating. Once the nurses were situated in the simulation room, the timer began and music began to play as the nurses went on to assess the patient—a high-fidelity mannequin—in front of them. As she assessed the patient, Sladek described finding puzzle pieces with vital signs or symptoms that gave them clues to their next steps. She also worked together with other nurses to find a key to a lockbox which contained a blacklight, allowing them to gain access to more information that ultimately helped them treat the patient.
Linenberger described working closely with the Center for Simulation and Education Enhancement to prepare props for the session. Ian Julie, the director of the Center for Simulation and Education Enhancement at UC Davis, explained that the center had to make multiple changes to training curriculums due to the pandemic.
“The issue that we encountered is simulation training for doctors and medical students and nurses and all the other healthcare workers involves a lot of hands-on learning,” Julie said. “Because of social distancing rules, we really had to cut down on what we were doing in person.”
To overcome these barriers, Julie explained that they had to broadcast much of their curriculum through online platforms, where a small number of students were able to conduct the simulations in person while the rest of the class was able to watch. The center also used 360-degree cameras to create interactive environments where students could walk through scenarios virtually.
Not only did these virtual platforms allow simulations to be run safely, but they also received a fair amount of positive feedback from students. Julie explained that many doctors and students are unable to attend training exercises due to clinical duties at unprecedented hours. He expressed that because of their success in increasing the amount of participants in these activities, the center will continue using the screen-based content they developed throughout the pandemic and will experiment with new technology to help those who are still unable to attend in-person simulations post-COVID-19.
“By being able to participate online and being able to do things asynchronously, we were actually able to include a lot more people who otherwise would’ve either been but been dead tired or would have skipped the activity entirely because they wouldn’t have been able to make it given their clinical responsibilities,” Julie said.
Linenberger said that being able to design the escape room simulation was rewarding as an educator, and to see the level of collaboration and excitement in learning was all worth the effort. She explained that other faculty members have reached out to her for help in creating escape rooms in other disciplines as well. She hopes to continue expanding her design in the future.
“It was probably one of the most enjoyable teaching moments that I’ve had in my 25 years here,” Linenberger said. “It was quite nice to see people excited, something different.”
Written by: Michelle Wong — firstname.lastname@example.org