Midwifery Students Riddle Their Way Through Escape Room

Simulation faculty use a two-way mirror to observe nursing students in the Escape Room.
December 14, 2021

Two years ago, Director of the Midwifery Faculty Practice Erin Morelli ’02 MSN, CNM, CLC, RN, FACNM decided that the best way for her Yale School of Nursing (YSN) first-year midwifery specialty students to conduct a summative self-evaluation was to host an Escape Room. 

Say what?  

Through a combination of locks, puzzles, hidden clues, and innocuous-looking objects that contain multitudes, midwifery students progress through all the material they’ve covered this semester, a skill-heavy period that prepares them to catch babies in a clinical setting. That includes assessing the Apgar score, a test given to newborns shortly after birth; checking a patient’s cervical dilation; and working as a team with classmates they may not know well. 

Morelli purchased the specialty supplies for this exercise with a grant from the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.

Once the students have solved every riddle, the (never really locked) door opens and the faculty debriefing begins. After a year of Zooming the exercise returned to an in-person setting this semester.

“This simulation is a low-stress method for students to assess what information they’re missing,” Morelli said. “You get to watch them think out loud and as a teacher that’s wonderful to see. It’s my favorite teaching activity of the year.”

Recent grad Jill Langan ’21 MSN, a former simulation Teaching Assistant, partnered with Morelli to devise word puzzles like this pair:

Interpret these tracings
What categories are these?
Figure it out and you will find the keys.

Go back to the tracings 
Give it a go!
Calculate the uterine strength with Montevideo.

“You don’t have these opportunities on a test or in a lecture,” Langan said. “Seeing the students learn from each other is such a meaningful piece for them. It also boosts their confidence and forges great connections with their peers.”

Eva Rose Dunder ’23 MSN, was new to the Escape Room concept but called it one the best exercises she has done so far at YSN. 

“This activity was the perfect balance of fun and testing our knowledge,” Dunder said. “It gave me confidence in the skills and knowledge I have, as well as confidence my ability to work with a team. It also gave me a kick in the butt to realize how much I still need to learn. Having to recall skills and knowledge we learned all semester in a fast-paced scenario is a lot like clinical work and this reminded me that I’ve got a lot of studying to do but I will also always have a team (ideally).”

Grace Buchloh ’23 MSN, knew what to expect from this type of game and was excited to use it as preparation for the next step in her learning.

“While it felt exhilarating to find our group knowing the correct answers to puzzle clues relevant to midwifery care, it was also challenging to have to recall this information in a timed environment in front of peers and faculty who I admire. Overall, I loved every minute of it and feel more excited than ever to start drawing on my new skillset in the next high-pressure environment: the hospital!”

Ashleigh Evans ’23 MSN, also gave the exercise rave reviews.

“Anyone who has done an escape room before will tell you how intricate and detail-oriented the clues are,” she said. “Oftentimes the words have double meanings, there must be perfect coordination between clues and locks, and there has to be a flow from how the game starts to how it finishes.  

“Professor Morelli wears a lot of hats, so it’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that she’s had time to put together such an intricate puzzle. But it was great! It reinforced just about every skill and concept we learned in class but captured the classic escape room feel. It was the best experience all year.”