Trapped as a Group, Escape as a Team: Applying Gamification to Incorporate Team-building Skills Through an ‘Escape Room’ Experience
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Teamwork, a skill critical for quality patient care, is recognized as a core competency by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). To date, there is no consensus on how to effectively teach these skills in a forum that engages learners, immerses members in life-like activities, and builds both trust and rapport. Recreational 'Escape Rooms' have gained popularity in creating a life-like environment that rewards players for working together, solving puzzles, and completing successions of mind-bending tasks in order to effectively 'escape the room' in the time allotted. In this regard, escape rooms share many parallels with the multitasking and teamwork that is essential for a successful emergency department (ED) shift. A pilot group of nine emergency medicine (EM) residents and one senior EM faculty member underwent a commercial escape room as part of a team-building exercise in January 2018. The escape room required participants to practice teamwork, communication, task delegation, and critical thinking to tackle waves of increasingly complex puzzles, ranging from hidden objects, physical object assembly (i.e., jigsaw puzzles), and symbol matching. Activities required members to recognize and utilize the collective experiences, skills, knowledge base, and physical abilities of the group. After the game, players underwent a structured 'game-master' debriefing facilitated by an employee of the commercial escape room; this was followed by a post-event survey facilitated by a faculty member, which focused on participants' feelings, experiences, and problem-solving techniques. Escape rooms afford learners the opportunity to engage in an activity that rewards teamwork and effective leadership through experiences that directly link to specific ACGME milestones and educational learning theories. EM participants were engaged in the activity and felt that the escape room reproduced an environment analogous to the ED. The debriefing that followed the activity provided a satisfactory conclusion to the experience; but learners preferred a more organized debriefing format that provided them with constructive and specific feedback on their performance.