Professional Comment

Utilising Gamification To Improve Healthcare Training

By Michelle Gorringe, COO Newcross Healthcare (

If you use a smartphone, you might not know it but you’ve probably encountered something called gamification – as in, gameification – which applies video game principles to learning in general.

For those of us in the healthcare sector, this begs the question, could best-practice gaming technologies and techniques be employed to improve the way we train the nurses and carers?

The answer is yes. We’re using gamification principles to enhance our clinical training in the healthcare industry to help provide our staff with the skills required to work in a range of establishments including care homes, hospitals, prisons and schools.

Technically speaking, ‘gamification’ can simply mean leaderboards or other basic elements seen in computer games. Yet at its most advanced, gamification can allow for virtual simulations of the real-life settings in which nurses and carers work. ‘Characters’ with their own stories can be created, to whom users (i.e., nurses and carers) can strongly relate. These characters and their narratives are built on a variety of real-life situations, all blended to provide the best learning possible in a simulated environment. And scientific study into how the brain learns best shows that gamification increases the effective- ness of information recall and retention.

The ways in which gamification can be used are myriad; ‘Lifesaver’ from the Resuscitation Council UK puts you at the heart of the action when someone has a cardiac arrest, Melbourne’s Metro Trains went viral after they used gamification to promote rail safety and, closer to home, Newcross Healthcare has adopted gamification to create a ‘virtual shift’.

The benefit of a virtual shift is that it can provide a number of scenarios, each centred on a different character with each scenario not only covering physical, clinical and emergency situations but also an individual’s emotional needs. If, for example, an elderly person has a fall, a carer needs to know how to handle that situation practically; but if the person also has dementia, their care must also take into account the communication challenges that person’s dementia poses.

People love stories, and tend to remember them better than facts. In a healthcare setting, this means that healthcare staff embarking on the educational experience are immersed in the world of the character in a way that’s interactive, engaging and fun, instead of reading information following which they are then tested on, as is the case with much eLearning today.

‘Characterisation’ can also build a rapport between user and character, proving that the caring aspect of the job translates well to the virtual-learning environment. And nurses and carers can learn in a safe environment, too – immediately seeing the consequences of their decisions, and gaining from instant feedback. Put simply, gamification, when used in a healthcare context, lets you learn in a place where it’s safe to make mistakes – and learn from them.

However, when using gamification techniques in the context of learning, you need to be clear on your desired learning outcomes. Once these are identified, the course content and experience as a whole can be engineered to meet that outcome and meet the requirements of a care certificate. For example, users should come away with the precise skills they need to work in a particular environment, whether it be schools, hospitals, prisons or, in our case, care homes.