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Gaming gets serious

Gaming gets serious

Nursing students who took part in video game-like simulation training were more likely to make correct decisions regarding patient care than students who attended a three-hour lecture on the same topic.

Inside a computer world that looks like real life, College of Nursing students interact with vulnerable patients and determine how they’re performing—without risking a medical mistake.

The computer simulation technology that makes it possible resembles single- and multi-player game formats. But it’s much more than a game and may one day transform training in the health care industry.

“The simulation is designed to reinforce the elements of the nursing process: assessment, problem identification, review of the physician’s orders, reassessment after every intervention, and escalating care when interventions don’t work,” nursing Associate Professor Judy LeFlore says. Dr. LeFlore, nursing Assistant Professor Mindi Anderson, and UT Dallas arts and technology Assistant Professor Marjorie Zielke developed a game-based simulator called “iNursingRN: Respiratory Distress.”

Judy LeFlore

Judy LeFlore, nursing associate professor

The iNursingRN project, funded by a Transforming Undergraduate Education grant from the UT System, allowed nearly 50 senior nursing students to take part in a computer simulation where they provided nursing care for four virtual pediatric patients with respiratory illnesses. An equal number of students in the experiment attended a three-hour lecture covering the same topic.

“When we tested students later in the UT Arlington Smart Hospital, we found that the game users were more likely to make correct decisions during the care of the patient and in a shorter period of time than the lecture group,” LeFlore says.

Now other College of Nursing researchers have won backing to take the video game-like simulations into another area of health care training. In April the U.S. Agency for Healthcare in Research and Quality awarded nearly $1 million over three years to a collaboration led by Beth Mancini, associate dean of UT Arlington’s College of Nursing, that includes researchers at Baylor Health Care System and UT Dallas.

This time the research aims at increasing patient safety by providing a safe, virtual environment for physicians and nurses to learn to communicate more efficiently through role-playing. They can then build more effective interpersonal communication skills by receiving feedback and putting what they’ve learned into practice.

“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 is safe to make a mistake and learn from it,” says Dr. Mancini. “The development of carefully constructed virtual environments takes that capability to a new level.”