Illinois Wesleyan University Incorporates Mental Health Escape Rooms into Nursing Curriculum

Mental health escape rooms

Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) is taking an innovative approach to nursing education by incorporating mental health escape rooms into its curriculum. Nursing students Angel Lee, Davion Lemon, and Jovan Perez recently found themselves facing this unique challenge during a mandatory assignment, unsure of what to expect.

These junior students, enrolled in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at IWU, were informed that the escape room exercise would contribute to their clinical hours, but beyond that, they were provided with few details.

Little did they know that this would be no ordinary escape room experience; it was a mental health escape room designed to test their knowledge and skills in a setting resembling the basement of the nursing school where they typically engage in simulations—structured hospital scenarios to assess their competence.

Moments before entering the escape room, Amanda Kemp, the simulation coordinator, finally revealed the rules of the game. “It’s meant to be a game,” she explained. “Obviously, there’s a little competition to it. I will time you.”

Each group of students was allotted 30 minutes to complete the exercise. Kemp intentionally provided just enough information for the students to orient themselves within the escape room, avoiding any spoilers that might dilute the surprise and challenge of the experience.

Inside the escape room, students were encouraged to utilize any objects or clues they could find to ultimately locate an IWU ID badge, which served as the key to exiting the room.

Kemp observed their progress from a concealed one-way mirror in the adjacent room, offering a maximum of two clues during the exercise. However, each additional clue increased their final completion time.

The concept of mental health escape rooms as a teaching tool represents an exciting and innovative approach to nursing education. These escape rooms not only test students’ clinical knowledge and problem-solving skills but also immerse them in scenarios that mimic the complexities and challenges they may encounter in real-life nursing situations.

By incorporating mental health escape rooms into the curriculum, IWU aims to provide students with a hands-on learning experience that fosters critical thinking, teamwork, and the ability to remain composed under pressure—all essential attributes for future healthcare professionals.

Escape rooms, in general, have gained popularity as recreational activities and team-building exercises, but their application in healthcare education is a relatively recent development. These immersive learning environments offer a unique opportunity for students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical and engaging setting.

In the context of mental health escape rooms, students not only need to rely on their medical expertise but also on their communication and empathy skills. They must navigate complex patient scenarios, addressing both physical and psychological health needs, all while racing against the clock.

The incorporation of mental health escape rooms aligns with a broader trend in nursing education, emphasizing the importance of holistic care and patient-centered approaches.

Healthcare professionals are increasingly recognizing the significance of addressing mental health alongside physical health, and nursing programs are adapting to prepare students accordingly.

Illinois Wesleyan University’s initiative is a testament to the institution’s commitment to providing its nursing students with a well-rounded and immersive education.

As these students grapple with the challenges presented within the mental health escape rooms, they gain valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of healthcare, reinforcing the importance of empathy, communication, and holistic care in their future careers.

In conclusion, the introduction of mental health escape rooms into the nursing curriculum at Illinois Wesleyan University represents a pioneering approach to healthcare education.

By offering students a dynamic and engaging learning experience that mirrors the complexities of real-world nursing practice, IWU is equipping its future healthcare professionals with the skills and mindset needed to excel in an evolving healthcare landscape.

As nursing programs continue to evolve to meet the demands of the profession, innovative teaching methods like mental health escape rooms are likely to play an increasingly significant role in preparing the next generation of nurses.

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