Escape Into Patient Ssafety: Bringing Human Factors to Life for Medical Students

BMJ Open Qual. 2019 Mar 30;8(1):e000548


Patient safety is at the core of the General Medical Council (GMC) standards for undergraduate medical education. It is recognised that patient safety and human factors’ education is necessary for doctors to practice safely. Teaching patient safety to medical students is difficult. Institutions must develop expertise and build curricula while students must also be able to see the subject as relevant to future practice. Consequently graduates may lack confidence in this area.


We used gamification (the application of game design principles to education) to create a patient safety simulation for medical students using game elements. Gamification builds motivation and engagement, whilst developing teamwork and communication. We designed an escape room—a team-based game where learners solve a series of clinical and communication-based tasks in order to treat a fictional patient while avoiding ‘clinician error’. This is followed up with an after action review where students reflect on their experience and identify learning points.


Students praised the session’s interactivity and rated it highly for gaining new knowledge and skills and for increasing confidence to apply patient safety concepts to future work.


Our findings are in line with existing evidence demonstrating the success of experiential learning interventions for teaching patient safety to medical students. Where the escape room has potential to add value is the use of game elements to engage learners with the experience being recreated despite its simplicity as a simulation. More thorough evaluation of larger pilots is recommended to continue exploring the effectiveness of escape rooms as a teaching method.