How to Create an Escape Room for Virtual Education

Tiffany Clary
Tiffany Clary

Developing new tools for educating emergency nurses in the ED can be puzzling.

This afternoon, Tiffany Clary, a nursing professional development specialist in central Texas, will explain how she incorporated virtual escape rooms into training for new and experienced nurses in Escaping the Classroom – A Non-Traditional Approach to ED Nursing Education.

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple, where Clary works, is a teaching and research hospital that trains 50 to 70 new nurses each year through its emergency department specialty internship, three new graduate internships and two fellowships.

“We’re continuously working on revising our programs and trying to make things better and trying to be innovative as we develop education for our interns, our fellows and our experienced staff,” Clary said.

That innovation accelerated when COVID-19 spurred social-distancing guidelines and created a need to shift in-person education at Clary’s facility to a fully virtual environment almost overnight.

“It was definitely a challenge to try to figure out how we were going to be able to provide education that was still quality and engaging,” Clary said.

Clary, who presents at 2:45 p.m. Central time, will share, step-by-step, how she created virtual escape rooms, explaining the key components of effective escape rooms and the technology needed to build one.  She will be available to field questions during a live discussion period at 3:30 p.m.

“The most important thing here is to have fun and not to be afraid to try anything new,” she said. “Remember, your end goal is to create a fun escape room for your learners — something that is engaging and exciting for them.”

The types of puzzles incorporated into an escape room can vary as much as the themes used. Clary will outline how to effectively use hidden messages, code cracking, picture puzzles, question-and-answer puzzles and patterns.

“It’s easy to get lost in making your puzzles,” she said. “Fun puzzles are great, but you still want to keep your learning goals in mind. What were you trying to do as far as your intended education for your escape room?”

This isn’t the first time escape rooms have made it onto the conference schedule. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center nurses challenged Emergency Nursing 2018 attendees with a live-action escape room. To get into the “room,” teams were asked to adequately triage 30 hypothetical patients injured when a truck ran through a crowd. Once inside, the real challenge began. The team faced a severely burned patient and a ticking clock. Appropriate care led to clues that led to three keys that opened the door out of the escape room.

Following the challenge, teams were debriefed and asked to complete surveys on their experience. Most participants demonstrated improved confidence in triage, managing burn care and leadership in a mass casualty incident.

Creating a virtual escape room for synchronous or asynchronous learning does not need to be expensive, nor does it require specialized computer training. Clary said multiple options for creating an escape room involve readily accessible online resources trainers might already have on hand.

“Your puzzles can be created in many ways, and you will continue to figure out new things every time you make your escape room, but some of the easiest ways to start out creating your puzzles are using Google quizzes or Google Docs,” she said.

EN21 session recordings will be available for on-demand viewing on the meeting platform through Jan. 31.