Incorporate games into your teaching strategy

Nurse Leader Insider, December 7, 2007

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Using games in the clinical setting has become popular in many facilities as a fun and effective training technique. Whether they are teaching facts about a particular patient affliction or coaching on critical thinking skills, games have become a proven strategy to relay information in a clinical classroom.

"It's fun, and it's nonthreatening," says Carla Bertsch, RN, MSN, director of education at Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint, ID, who, along with her classmate Mikel Allen, BSN, MSNc, developed a presentation about games as a teaching strategy for her masters program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA.

Games allow educators the opportunity to broaden the avenue through which they provide information to their staff members, opening the door for new learners to grasp needed knowledge. Adult learning can occur through auditory, visual, and psychomotor approaches but learning and retention of information may be increased by up to 90% when all three learning styles are incorporated into one teaching strategy.

One key thing to keep in mind, says Bertsch, is that not everyone likes games. Another possible drawback, she adds, is that it can be time-consuming to develop a game, and if you choose to buy a premade game, it can be expensive.

However, staff members will probably remember only about 10% of what they were taught in a PowerPoint presentation, she says, whereas a game is likely to increase that retention rate to 80%-90%.

When you have chosen the game for your classroom and are ready to begin its development, take the following tips into account:

  1. Games should have an aspect of competition and a winner.
  2. Games should be easy to understand. Make sure that the rules and concept of the game are made clear from the get-go to avoid confusion.
  3. Games should be fun. Even when dealing with serious or dense material, keep in mind that a game, by nature, should be enjoyable and nonthreatening.

Editor's Note: This excerpt was adapted from the article, "Developing a time to work and a time to play" featured in the Evidence-based practice resource center on HCPro's new online resource center,!

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