Playing Nurse

Grant-funded video game could transform health care training using lifelike simulations

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Increasing patient safety by improving physician-nurse communication is the goal of a nearly $1 million grant awarded to UT Arlington’s College of Nursing, the Baylor Health Care System, and UT Dallas.

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality award will be used to develop video game-like simulations that provide a safe, virtual environment where doctors and nurses can learn to communicate through role-playing. Health care providers will experience real-world situations and react in the virtual setting, similar to advanced computer games.

Technologies like the high-fidelity manikins at UT Arlington’s Smart Hospital have made it possible for students to acquire and test their skills in a realistic environment where it’s safe to make a mistake and learn from it,” says Beth Mancini, associate dean of the College of Nursing and principal investigator for the study. “The development of serious gaming systems takes that capability to a new level and has the potential to transform health care training.”

Communication problems in health care can lead to serious, even fatal, mistakes. The Joint Commission, the national organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations, has identified communication among caregivers as a key National Patient Safety Goal.

Dr. Mancini will provide health care expertise along with Yan Xiao, director of patient safety research at Baylor Health Care System. Marjorie Zielke, a UT Dallas assistant professor of arts and technology, will construct the prototype game. Initially, it will focus on surgeons and nurses caring for postoperative patients.

The researchers plan to recruit 120 nurses and 25 physicians on the Baylor medical staff to take part. Mancini, Xiao and Zielke hope to collaborate on future projects that explore how interactive, lifelike virtual environments can improve health care delivery.

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