skip to main content

Celebrating 75 Years of Innovation in Nursing Education and Research

Learn More | Watch Video

Back to Top

A fun way to practice clinical skills

Apr 25, 2018
Guylaine Spencer

Escape room

Photo above: An escape room called the “What’s Wrong Room” was a favourite with students. 

An informal chat over coffee between two nursing educators led to the creation of an exciting new way for students to practice their clinical skills, critical thinking, and teamwork.

Vanessa Cavalieri is a part time instructor in the BScN Program. Dr. Lynn Martin is an assistant professor and lead for Level 2 courses. One day the two were chatting about how to engage the students in a way that permits them to practice their skills but in a non-evaluative way. “We were trying to incorporate something fun and modern,” says Cavalieri.  

Escape room- names of rooms

Photo above: Names of some of the escape rooms. 

That’s when Cavalieri came up with the idea of using an “escape room”. Also known as a “puzzle room”, an escape room is a game in which players use clues to solve a series of puzzles . Those solutions allow them to exit the room. 

Martin loved the idea and gave Cavalieri the go-ahead to start designing the game. The two worked with Elaine Shuhaibar, a clinical instructor in the Centre for Simulation-Based Learning (CSBL). Students use the CSBL to practice their clinical skills on life-like manikins who stand in for patients.

“This is my seventh year teaching this course,” says Cavalieri. “Lynn,Elaine and I worked all together to identify the learning gaps students face every year. I turned the gaps into escape rooms by designing  puzzles, match games, lock boxes, cryptograms, and word scrambles, all related to the nursing content we wanted to cover.” 

The escape rooms included five stations based on essential knowledge and skills that students develop in level 2 courses. Ninety-seven students participated over a period of two days during the last week of classes. The students became fully engaged in the stations as they worked in teams to compete against other student groups. 

Participating in the game was completely voluntary. ​It wasn’t for marks, but it was competitive. Prizes for teams that “escaped” the rooms in the shortest time included 4-colour pens and a pair of surgical  scissors. “We gave them things they will use in their clinical placements.” says Cavalieri. 

The learning experience is low cost. “That made it really appealing from the CBSL perspective. It’s easy to set up, it’s easy to take down, and it’s not resource-intensive,” says Cavalieri. 

Cavalieri created a survey to ask students if the experience was engaging, if it honed their skills, and would they suggest that is be used again. “One hundred percent said absolutely yes, do it again,” she notes. 

Cavalieri found it personally rewarding as well. “To see the students engaging and responding to something I designed so positively made me feel awesome. To try something fun and creative really appeals to me.” 

Dr. Ruth Chen is the Assistant Dean, Academic Resources and Department Education Coordinator. “This initiative highlights the value our Part-Time Instructors bring to the School of Nursing. Their enthusiasm for teaching, and the time they spend above and beyond their paid hours to enhance the student experience, is inspiring,” Chen remarked.

Escape room winning team

Photo above: The winning team solved the problems and made their escape in 58 minutes.

Front: Emily Daum, Juliet Hirst, Alyssa Raposo

Back: Krista McAllister, Abbi Snider, Hunter Ryan, Vanessa Cavalieri, Amanda Hoegy, Trisha Southall

Related Faculty

© 201​​7 McMaster University  |  1280 Main Street West  |  Hamilton, Ontario ​L8S 4K1  |  905-525-​9140905-525-​9140   |  Contact Us | Terms of Use & Privacy Policy