Escape Room Helps Students Prepare for Real Life Scenarios

A little chocolate syrup never hurt anyone…except when the chocolate syrup represents harmful germs and you are covered inImg 8779 it.

This was the experience of third-year pharmacy students learning about infection control and prevention in an “escape room” format this semester.

“We are focusing on patient safety and proper precautions to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases,” said Crystal Howell, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacotherapy at UNT System College of Pharmacy. “According to the CDC, 1 in 25 patients will obtain a preventable and potentially fatal infection just from being admitted to the hospital.”

Dr. Howell came up with the idea to put her students through the paces of an “escape room” exercise but with the twist of rather than the student having to escape, the two patient scenarios needed to escape the hospital without obtaining a hospital acquired infection.

Students completed a series of puzzles requiring input from all team members representing a multitude of parties contributing to the interprofessional care team culminating in one final task – properly removing personal protective equipment (PPE) covered in “germs”, aka chocolate syrup, without spreading the potential pathogens to their other patients.

The variety of online and interactive puzzles allowed students to hone in on one of the most important patient safety principles, do no harm. In addition to learning about and practicing the dawning and doffing of PPE in order to keep the patient safe, the chocolate syrup exercise was a great visual exercise to illustrate the points on (1) how easy it is to transmit microscopic organisms and (2) how small inconveniences such as where to dawn and doff PPE can make a dramatic difference in the potential to prevent hospital acquired infections.

“I loved it,” commented one of the students, Antoinette Eyebe. “I especially loved the crosswords and working together with my classmates.” The students identified and applied infection control and prevention strategies to a real life scenario.

Eyebe volunteers at a hospital emergency room where she cleans rooms after patients are discharged. “I get it; I can relate,” she said. “It was a good learning experience, and I learned that [seemingly innocuous areas such as] computer mice and keyboards can even transmit germs.”

At this stage, students are preparing for rotations and work experiences out in the field, and this type of interactive learning can help them prepare for real-life scenarios.

“It’s important they have an awareness of patient safety before they even begin their rotations,” Dr. Howell said. “The last thing we want to do is cause a patient harm when they are being treated for something else in the hospital. We have to instill these basic practices in our students in order to keep them safe and to keep our patients safe. Hopefully the practice in this escape room in addition to their didactic work will lend itself to improved patient safety outcomes when the young healthcare students of today become the healthcare professionals of tomorrow.”