To celebrate Sepsis Awareness Month this past September, the nurse managers and clinical nurse educators in PAH’s Emergency Department and Critical and Intermediate Care teams joined forces to try something new to Pennsy: a sepsis-themed escape room.

Sepsis occurs when infection-fighting chemicals released in the bloodstream trigger inflammation and impair blood flow. If not caught early, tissue damage, organ failure, and even death can soon follow. Sepsis is the leading cause of readmissions and the third leading cause of death in the United States, with one person developing sepsis every 20 seconds — and yet, many patients never learn about the condition at all until it’s too late. Through this out-of-the-box, immersive group activity, staff learned how to quickly recognize and respond to the signs, and, just as critically, the importance of talking about sepsis with patients and their families.

Nearly 60 staff members participated in the escape room, including unit secretaries, performance improvement specialists, pharmacists, patient care techs, and more. Whenever two groups went through the room at the same time, an element of friendly competition entered the game as time ticked away. As they answered crossword puzzles, cracked combinations, and worked their way through a variety of challenges, they discovered items that related to the steps of sepsis treatment, such as measuring lactate levels and administering antibiotics.

“This activity inspired some really wonderful team dynamics,” said Angel McCullough, MSN, RN, MBA, CCRN, NEA-BC, clinical director of Nursing for Critical and Intermediate Care and the Emergency Department. “In order to successfully get through the challenge, everyone needed to communicate well and trust their teammates. It was exciting to see them talk through their answers, be resourceful, bounce ideas off one another — all the skills that make for extraordinary care delivery!”

The winning team was comprised of nurse managers from the Medical Surgical unit and the Intensive Care Nursery. Their ability to share information quickly and effectively, draw on their critical thinking skills, and have fun with the exercise while practicing vital skills helped them to escape the room in only eight minutes.

McCullough also notes that it was not just the participants who depended on the power of teamwork; collaboration was also key in organizing the event. “We would not have been able to host such a successful event if not for the work of Paula Gabriel [MSN, CCRN-CMC] and Casey Lieb [MSN, RN], our colleagues at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center,” she noted. “They pioneered this type of simulation-based learning last year, and we were able to learn from their example and modify it to fit our goals. While our escape room was a bit different, the outcome was the same — informing, inspiring, and igniting some energy around sepsis care.”

Shout-out out to Diane Angelos, MSN, RN; Bonita Ball, MSN, RN, NE-BC, CCRN; Kristen Deis, MSN, RN; Lauren Ellis, MSN, RN, CEN; Chris Huot, MSN, RN, CNML; Maria Joyce, MSN, RN; Phil Landis, DNP, MSN, RN, CEN; and Kevin Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN, for all of their hard work!

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