Research has shown that surgeons who played video games have better hand-eye coordination than their counterparts. When it comes to nursing skills, I never really considered the effects of these games.
You see, I’ve always liked video games. As a child, my aunt would take me to the local convenience store with a roll of quarters. There I would play Ms. Pac-Man for what seemed like hours, especially to her. I was in heaven.
By the time my eldest daughter was old enough to play, games like Tomb Raider and Spyro had been developed. Yep, it’s good old-fashioned mother/daughter bonding, while we searched for treasures or shot fire at the oversized Gnasty Gnork. As I grew older, I sort of left my gamer days behind me, or so I thought.
As I watch these nurses with their technical and extremely fast typing skills, I never thought all those hours spent with my daughter and Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft would be of any benefit. That’s until one incident.
Computerized, interactive nursing programs
The American Heart Association’s BCLS and PALS programs, like so many other areas of nursing, are now computerized and interactive. Two of us PALS instructors decided to take the computerized course first before springing it on the staff. We passed, and although it was different, we were both former gamers so we thought nothing of it.
The first group of nurses to take the course also had no problems. The second group, however, had an extremely difficult time. They had to retake scenarios several times and became very frustrated.
At first I didn’t understand why. The first group was relatively new, five to seven years of nursing experience, and all in their 20s to 30s. The second were seasoned nurses who had been Intensive Care and ED nurses. They knew this stuff backwards and forwards, plus they have a wide arsenal of nursing skills. Why were they having such a hard time? These nurses have been doing electronic documentation for years—they can’t be afraid of the computer.
As I listened to some of their complaints a light bulb went off in my head. To prove my theory, I asked some of my newer nurses how they managed to do the CD without being reduced to tears, cursing and thumb sucking. (Okay, maybe not the thumb sucking, but definitely the other two.) What I thought was true. The answer was video games. Huh, you say? How could God of War help you get PALS certified?
Solving scenarios, video game style
The younger nurses were used to finding the secret room or treasure. They were used to shooting aliens repeatedly and doing all of it quickly or they would lose a life. Watching them assess the patient, put on monitoring equipment, start IVs, draw labs, and start fluids, all within a few seconds by clicking the mouse, was no big deal to them.
And even if they didn’t feel comfortable, they redid the scenario even quicker, because they knew where everything was. They were used to replaying the same video games over again. If the same scenario got harder, that’s like just going to the next level to them.
Some of them had even taken the nursing class and they liked the interactive CD more, unlike their older colleagues. They felt it offered more interaction and made you think a lot more than just sitting in a class.
Who knew that video games would help me save the life of a virtual child with cardiomyopathy, while drawing labs when I start the IV and ordering an X-ray? Isn’t this what we do in real life anyway?
So now I am looking for those old Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man games. I hope the old Pac-Man fever I used to have will help me save the next virtual child with an initial assessment of a rash with fever. After all, who knew that video games can improve nursing skills?
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