27 May 2024

Fluorescent hospital lights, a post-operative patient monitored by machines, and an anxious medical team waiting to sign off the successful procedure. But something’s missing and until it’s found no one can leave the room.

Accounting for surgical items is a real-life scenario faced by medical teams every day, but right now it’s a part of a cleverly concocted escape room experience engineered by health experts at the University of South Australia.

An escape room is an immersive, fun adventure game where players are ‘locked’ in a room and must solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives and ultimately escape within a set time limit.

UniSA’s immersive educational experience – ‘Escape from the Operating Room’ – is a 45-minute game designed for postgraduate perioperative nurses to sharpen their skills and enhance their understanding of complex nursing concepts.

Set in a real-world operating room scenario, students participate as a ‘theatre team’ where they work together to solve a series of challenges and escape. There are six challenges, each relating to an aspect of perioperative nursing practice that aligns with  the Australian College of Perioperative Nurses standards.

Escape room designer and nursing lecturer, UniSA’s Dr Michelle Freeling, says the experience presents a unique opportunity for perioperative nurses to improve their skills, while working as a team, and under pressure – all essential elements of safe, competent patient care.

“Healthcare environments can be stressful, especially for new nurses. Escape rooms simulate high-pressure situations, so they enable students to practice under stress, but within a secure and controlled low-stakes environment,” Dr Freeling says.

“Escape rooms are used internationally across healthcare education and are known to improve students’ understanding of complex nursing concepts, as well as their ability to prioritise, build resilience, and develop coping strategies.

“They can also build team communication, coordination, and confidence, all of which are vital for positive patient outcomes and interprofessional collaboration.

“The hands-on nature of an escape room allows students to apply concepts that they have learnt in online lessons, reinforcing their knowledge, and practicing them in a ‘real’ scenario’.

“By actively participating in simulations, students build confidence and can retain and internalise knowledge more effectively so that they can transfer it to the real-world.”

nursing escape room activityThe escape room experience is part of UniSA’s Perioperative Nursing course and part of the Clinical Specialisation Program, developed through a partnership with SA Health.

Program Director for Postgraduate Nursing & Midwifery, UniSA’s Dr Allison Roderick says the escape room experience is part of a wide range of courses that focus on upskilling and re-invigorating South Australia’s front-line health workers.

“The Perioperative Nursing course – which includes the ‘Escape from the Operating Room’ experience – is available to all registered nurses and is delivered fully online to enable flexible learning opportunities around busy shift work schedules,” Dr Roderick says.

“Those who commence this course are usually registered nurses already working in perioperative settings, but it can also cater to those looking to commence their journey into perioperative nursing. 

“At UniSA, we’re committed to providing first-class education opportunities that enhance our local front-line workforce. The escape room is an exemplar of just this and we look forward to sharing this unique educational experience across the health sector.”

Beyond the initial escape room experience, the UniSA nursing team hopes to expand the program across other nursing areas both at university and across the public and private sector.


Media contact: Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: Annabel.Mansfield@unisa.edu.au

Nursing contacts: Dr Michelle Freeling E: michelle.freeling@unisa.edu.au
Dr Allison Roderick E: allison.roderick@unisa.edu.au

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