Campus News

UB’s interprofessional education ‘escape room’ goes virtual

Concept of an escape room game.

The goal of the escape room is to give students from different health professions the opportunity to learn and ‘play’ together in order to better understand and appreciate each other’s roles.


Published October 30, 2020

“Based on experience this fall, it appears students bought into the virtual environment and we were able to meet our objective. ”
Nicholas Fusco, clinical associate professor
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

“Welcome,” announces the opening image of the virtual state-of-the-art version of the interprofessional education program Escape Room “Saving Patient X” developed by faculty from the schools of Nursing, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Public Health and Health Professions.

One easy click takes players/students to an interactive online board game, complete with lighthearted videos and real-life situations. Instead of solving a mystery or finding a way out of a prison cell, this escape room features an animated scene of a patient in a hospital room surrounded by numerous objects.

Each object presents students with a “challenge” or question testing their ability to work together as a team and use their professional knowledge to treat the patient. Success with each challenge brings the student team closer to finding the “code” to escape the virtual room.

The School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences implemented the Escape Room in fall 2018, with physical therapy students joining last fall. But now, due to the COVID-19 precautions, as well as the desire to expand the learning experience, the Escape Room has gone virtual.

“Our goal,” says Kelly Foltz-Ramos, assistant professor and director of simulation for the School of Nursing, “is to give students from different health professions the opportunity to learn and ‘play’ together in order to better understand and appreciate each other’s roles. Learning to communicate with other professions as students will help to promote teamwork and communication when they are in the clinical setting.”

It’s also designed to have an element of fun.

Zoom meeting screenshot of nursing student who successfully completed an escape room-like exercise and saved "patient X.".

“Having the opportunity to work with individuals from other disciplines was fascinating,” says nursing student Eugenia Telleria. “It was like we were all looking into the same house (the patient) but through different windows (professional perspectives). Our combined expertise resulted in exceptional care.”

Nursing student Tiffany Frazzini says nothing combats the obstacles of good health care more than unity and inter-communication.

“Participating in the interprofessional escape room and virtual simulation gave us students the opportunity to create this unity and intercommunication before even beginning our careers,” she says. “Imagine what positive possibilities lie ahead if professional health programs continue to form these kinds of connections between their students. The positive connections made will reverberate throughout the entire field as the students move onto their professional careers.”

The previous two years have been a success, according to Foltz-Ramos, but the popularity has also presented logistical problems.

Before COVID-19, the escape room simulations required considerable faculty and graduate assistant time to conduct them in the School of Nursing’s Simulation Center.

“We were running four rooms simultaneously,” explains Foltz-Ramos. “And we wanted to offer the Escape Room to more than nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy students. The hope for the future is to include more professions.”

So Foltz-Ramos, along with Nicholas Fusco, clinical associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Patricia Ohtake, assistant vice president of interprofessional education and an associate professor in the physical therapy program, planned an online version. Fusco led development of the online version created on a Google site.

“The objective of the escape room was to provide a venue for students to meet each other and begin to build foundations of effective communication and teamwork,” Fusco says.

“Moving from an in-person to a virtual experience provided flexibility for scheduling. However, were students going to engage with each other at the same level they would have in person? Based on experience this fall, it appears students bought into the virtual environment and we were able to meet our objective.”

This year’s virtual Escape Room involves treating a patient with sepsis following hip replacement surgery. Sepsis is a complication from an infection leading to multiple organ failure that, if not treated, could be fatal. The Escape Room tests students’ ability to determine lab results and physical examination, interpret the results and determine the best treatment for the patient. The simulation following the Escape Room gives the students another chance to work as a team during a case conference to create an interprofessional discharge plan for a patient following sepsis and hip replacement.

The procedure for this year’s virtual session follows the earlier on-site simulations. The students complete the escape room in preassigned Zoom groups of five at a mutually agreed-upon time. After solving the various challenges in the escape room — from cracking a code, to finding the results of  laboratory tests, to finding the right combination of medications, to watching Rick Astley’s “Never Going to Give You Up” video — the group meets again in a facilitated virtual case conference simulation.

Students have pre-work and surveys to prepare them for the activities. Facilitators collect information, including escape room completion and observed performance in the simulation. Students then complete a post-survey and program evaluation.

Pharmacy student Zakiya Rhodie calls the experience “eye-opening and gratifying.”

“I enjoyed the dynamic problem-solving tasks we tackled, which truly allowed me to think outside of the realm of pharmacy I am traditionally accustomed to,” Rhodie says. “I will continue to holistically assess patients considering the new knowledge I have acquired regarding the umbrella of roles associated with other health care professional discipline, such as nursing and physical therapy.”