50 Great Learning Tools & Video Games for Nurses & Health Professionals

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Are you ready to learn nursing and health care skills via the Internet? According to author Diane J. Skiba, unless you are within 5 years of retirement, you will be encountering the “Net generation” in your nursing practice. This is a group that embraces technology, and it believes that health care, like education, is in the dark ages when it comes to technological usage. So how do you get ahead?

Although nurses and health care professionals have been playing games for a long time, as witnessed in this photograph of four nurses as they played a board game at a table in the interns’ lounge at Duke University before 1940 and by this article about the psychological games involved with nursing. But, online games geared to nursing and health care professionals and their patients have become hot news lately. These games are focused on making the health care profession easier, more efficient and better prepared to handle patients from the Net generation.

The following games are categorized, and they are listed in no specific order or preference. You’ll find exercise games, games that increase brain power and decrease phobias, games that treat pain and games that help train health care workers in new procedures. If you know of more games that nurses and health care professionals can “play” to learn more, let us know!

Online Games

The games below range from the very simple to complex, and all of them are found online. Some are used to pass the time and sponsored by nursing or health care groups. Other games are more topic-specific and geared toward learning.

  1. CyberNurse: This page at Cybernurse offers several different word games and a game for concentration and – yes – a game for fun (Rock Paper Scissors Game).
  2. Nursing Fun: This site strives to be “the very best resource we can be for both fun and information for an often underappreciated group of people – nurses.” On top of jokes, resources, travel nursing information, they’ve added a new games section to enjoy.
  3. StudentNurses.com: Do you want to be a nursing millionaire? Try this game and other skill sets at a site geared toward student nurses.
  4. Life – A Study of Genetics and Molecular Biology: This module is located at ThinkQuest, and it offers games like “Bloody Madness!”, where – as the doctor in charge of the ER – you must provide patients with the right types of blood for transfusion. Check out the forums and information segments as well, if you’re into genetics and molecular biology.
  5. Interactive Physiology: This interactive game was designed for anatomy and physiology students to help them understand rather than memorize their topics. While many of the topics on the site must be purchased, portions of the cardiovascular tutorial are free.
  6. EnglishMed: You can tackle thousands of word exercises here, all geared toward doctors, nurses, pharmacists and general medical staff.
  7. The Health Care Game: The Health Care Game is based on the lives of four families who encounter a range of health events. Each event generates problems for the family member. Students are required to obtain information about how the family will identify and access the services required, as well as the different options available to the family. The cost of services and the organization or person responsible for meeting these costs is also often required.
  8. WordMeister Games: This Java applet game offers five games per match, and this particular game is based upon health care words. Think of this game as a medical word Wheel of Fortune.
  9. Medical Cyberworlds: Medical Cyberworlds is a startup in the process of creating an online multiplayer game to train doctors to communicate more effectively with their patients. Dr. Fred Kron, the founder and CEO of the company and Noah Falstein, the lead designer realize the challenging process of encouraging effective collaboration between physicians, academics, and game developers. You might bookmark this site for future use.
  10. 3DiTeams: 3DiTeams is an interactive health care team-training program created by learning developer Virtual Heroes. Designed to improve team collaboration and reduce medical errors, it was introduced to Duke University medical and nursing students in May 2008. The 3DiTeams training program is based on a health care team coordination curriculum called TeamSTEPPS, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
  11. HumanSim: This video game, designed by Virtual Heroes, soon will enable health care professionals to sharpen their assessment and decision-making skills without risk to patients in realistic, challenging, immersive environments that are instrumented to provide meaningful performance feedback. This game is intended for all health care professionals and students.
  12. Nursing Informatics: This site offers various tools to help the nurse determine competencies, including a self-assessment test, designed for the purpose of assisting nurses in creating a personal learning plan for further education and practice.
  13. Second Life: Linden Lab’s Second Life (SL) has proven to be the most popular virtual world used by the general public. Now, healthcare professionals are using this venue to create communities intended for health care projects. Cigna, a worldwide healthcare plan provider, has launched a pilot project at Second Life that will use a virtual health care community in an effort to positively change health care behaviors. If you’re interested, you can check out ten more virtual medical sites located within Second Life as of 2007.
  14. A.D.A.M.: For over a decade, A.D.A.M. has been committed to building the most innovative teaching tools for anatomy and physiology curricula. While A.D.A.M.’s tools cannot replace traditional anatomy studies, their 3D library, digital database of detailed anatomical images including illustrated, fully dissectible male and female bodies and over 570 clinical illustrations to apply anatomy learning in a clinical setting are premeire tools for the health professional.
  15. Visible Body: Visible Body is another tool for health care professionals who want to work with online tools. They offer complete, fully interactive, 3D human anatomy model with detailed models of all body systems, a dynamic search capacity, easy-to-use 3D controls and seamless compatibility with most Web browsers.
  16. Breakaway: This site lists games for dental students, health care students and a tool for pain care management. Launch the videos for each game to learn more about each product.
  17. Nobelprize.org Medicine Games: This is where you can find the popular Blood Typing Game. Don’t stop there, however, as you also can learn more about health and medicine through the other educational games listed on this site, such as the Electrocardiogram Game, the Parasite Game and the Immune System Defender Game.
  18. Cardiac Jeopardy: New health games based upon the popular Jeopardy game are beginning to gain momentum among students, as they learn while having fun. The Cardio Jeopardy game is design only for use on Internet Explorer.

Brain Games

The ‘brain games’ listed below help to pass time (for impatient patients), increase mental and physical skills, and they also stimulate and increase skills with the Internet. These are great skills for health-care professionals and patients alike.

  1. Happy Neuron: Happy Neuron’s comprehensive program stimulates attention, language, memory, visual-spatial and executive function skills. Good for adults or for children.
  2. Games for the Brain: These games are great for professionals as well as for patients. Plus, you can include these games into your Web site.
  3. Brain Games: From memory games to challenges for motor skills, Sheppard Software provides it all. Some games may be too frustrating for younger kids, as they are fairly sophisticated and difficult for some who may not have experience with game-playing on the ‘Net. The site does include tips for playing most of the games.
  4. Luminosity: This is not a free site, but you can gain access to a seven-day free trial filled with scientific brain training games and tools to improve memory and attention. The site contains a wide range of exercises that target different mental processes, and PC Magazine rates the site as “Top 100 Undiscovered Sites.”
  5. Brainist: This site contains puzzles, thinking and memory games, and tools that connect mind and body. The site was designed for educational purposes for adults.
  6. Prevention Brain Games: According to Prevention Magazine, the main cognitive functions are: attention, memory, language, logical reasoning, and visual and spatial acuity. These functions are attended to in their games, which include many tools that help curb cognitive aging.
  7. AARP Games: What better way to get an older person to play online games than through a group they can identify with? AARP offers free games that challenge motor skills, memory, language, reasoning and more at their site.

Board Games

It’s time you dusted off the old Monopoly board, found the missing Scrabble pieces and Trivial Pursuit game cards and gathered up your friends for an old-fashioned game night. Playing board games is incredibly good for your mental and physical health and your very sanity. Plus, it’s a social exercise – you cannot play alone! The following games are focused on the health care professions and health in general, but the folks at Kernan Hospital have proven that facility-based variations on popular board games and television game shows can help improve education for staff and for patients.

  1. Friday Night at the ER: This board game is expensive, but some hospital staff have learned how to better treat patients and cut costs through playing this game. Includes a 45-minute training movie for people who will instruct Friday Night at the ER game sessions; an audio track for hearing the delivery of game-play instructions; a Facilitator Guide as a pdf file; other files with game-related forms and presentation slides.
  2. Chronic Care Challenges: Caring for patients with chronic diseases isn’t a walk in the park – nor is it a game. But, this game can help caregivers brainstorm with other players and identify caregiving strategies that can improve the care of persons with chronic conditions. The game has been developed by Nasco Health Care.
  3. The Thinking Nurse: Six varieties of this game use instructional strategies that promote higher-level thinking and offer nursing students a way to review nursing content, prepare for the NCLEX® exam, apply the nursing process formulating nursing diagnoses, goals, and outcome criteria, and nursing interventions based on brief patient scenarios. Offered by the College of DuPage Press.
  4. Cherry Ames’ Nursing Game: This is a bit campy, but fun nonetheless. The game board represents a hospital with areas or wards in which a student nurse must spend time. The areas include Training School, Medical, Dr. Joe’s Laboratory, Orthopedics, Children’s Ward, Emergency, Nursery, Operating Room, and Surgical. The insides of the squares are laid out like mazes, with arrows indicating the path to travel through the area. Players collect rings from six hospital areas to “graduate” from nursing school. This game was developed at Parker Brothers in 1959. The link will take you to a list of online sites that will have this game for sale (as an antique or collectible).
  5. What If? Games: These games are designed to help nurses and other health care professionals develop scenarios that will care for fictitious patients. What If? games ask learners to analyze data, prioritize care, analyze arguments, or provide additions or alternatives to the nursing care described in 75 true-to-life case scenarios. Using an unfolding case study approach, learners build an unfolding case by selecting a client by age, gender and diagnosis, then by adding random events from the game deck.
  6. Infection: Icky, gooey and messy, players race around the board as they catch diseases and try to be cured. Pass on diseases and expose family and friends to some ill-advised fun. This board game is geared toward students, doctors, nurses, health and science teachers and to anyone else who is interested in pandemics and plagues. This game was developed by Earwig Enterprises.
  7. Clinical Anatomy: Test your knowledge on anatomy with this board game. Up to six players can answer questions from other players. If answered correctly, player collects a letter to help spell “clinical anatomy” and continues turn by rolling again. When player answers incorrectly, he passes turn to player on the left. The first person to spell “clinical anatomy” wins. In the process, you can memorize and learn the name, location and function of more than 600 muscles, 206 bones, nearly 60 organs, 150 named nerves and 150 named blood vessels, and dozens of joints in the human body.
  8. Medical Monopoly: Four hospitals race against each other to fill beds with patients and treat them. Instead of buying Park Place, players can purchase organ parts and perform transplants. Although there’s some light-hearted spoofing in the game, Medical Monopoly gives its players an accurate lesson in anatomy, first aid and the elementary practice of medicine. According to the game site, this game is used by several school districts to teach health care.

For Patients

These games are geared toward patients, but they can’t learn how to use them without help. That’s where nurses and health care professionals come in – can you imagine being paid for learning how to operate Guitar Hero III? We thought so…

  1. Guitar Hero III: The burn center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center is using Guitar Hero III, a special add-on to the Nintendo Wii system whose controller looks like a miniature guitar. Therapists hope the actions will help patients with burns on their hands, arms and shoulders regain fine-motor control. At the last Games for Health conference, a version of this popular video game was unveiled that was designed to aid arm rehabilitation, and Ben Heckdorn designed a hack for Guitar Hero that enables amputee and stroke victim rehabilitation.
  2. PDwii: PDwii (for Parkinson’s Disease patients) currently is being developed by Red Hill Studios and the UCSF School of Nursing, with funding by the NIH. Quantifiable results are being used to track patient progress and are being integrated into the patient’s overall regime. Results will be used to benefit further innovations in the field of games for health.
  3. Wii Sports: Another attempt at using Wii is through their sports programs. Community Memorial Hospital, located in Hamilton, New York, is using the Wii Sports programs to help facilitate patient rehabilitation within the hospital’s environment.
  4. Zyked: Zyked aims to make sports and exercising more fun by adding gameplay and community features. The first Zyked product is an innovative Internet- and mobile service currently in Alpha testing. But, this tool already has gained the interest of the health community as a possible tool for ensuring maximum health benefits for patients (and possible for staff as well!).
  5. Ditto: This project originated at the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design, based at QUT, and involved a range of researchers including doctors, designers, children’s authors and engineers. Designed for younger patients, Ditto serves as a multi-modal distraction device designed to control pain and stress among patients undergoing burn and orthopedic medical procedures.
  6. SnowWorld Project: SnowWorld was designed to help put out the fire for burn patients. Developed at the University of Washington HITLab in collaboration with Harborview Burn Center, SnowWorld was the first immersive virtual world designed for reducing pain. In all their VR pain control studies, patients, (especially children and teenaged burn patients) have shown enthusiasm about participating.
  7. Creep Frontier: This is a new game, designed to help young cystic fibrosis (CF) patients complete often-forgotten breathing exercises. Conceived by Peter Bingham, a pediatric neurologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care, the game was developed by two teams of students at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center, a training ground for software developers and designers. The teams met with a respiratory therapist, who mapped the breathing regimens that would be of greatest benefit to players.
  8. The K.I.C.K.: Kid’s Interactive Creation Kiosk (K.I.C.K.) is an original touch screen and software suite developed exclusively to stimulate and support children’s creativity. Initial design of the system was focused on hospital waiting rooms and other similar healthcare settings. Developed by a team of graduate students at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center the project was originally titled “Project ER” and aimed to lower stress for 60,000 children who visited Pittsburgh Medical Centers ER each year. Now, K.I.C.K. is available for any doctor’s office or hospital environment.
  9. Virtual Ability Island: Virtual Ability is a joint project of Alliance Library System and Virtual Ability Inc., ‘Share the Health’ funded by the National Library of Medicine. Their mission is to enable people with a wide range of disabilities to enter into virtual worlds like Second Life and provide them with a supporting environment once there.
  10. WebMD Games: Test your daily health IQ, learn about staying healthy and play MahJongg to reduce stress. While these games are geared toward patients, health care professionals can learn what their patients are learning while playing these games.
  11. Amputee Games: This event, held for the first time in 2008, is the brainchild of David Hilton and Kiera Roche. It appears that the UK Limb Loss Information Centre may plan for a 2009 event as well. This is a great place to learn or participate in how to encourage patients who have lost a limb. Another group along this lines is the EXG Extremity Games, geared toward athletes who have lost limbs.

Other Initiatives

These tools are about games for the health care field, or they represent communities where initiatives can be discussed. These tools will help you to stay on top of any new developments in the health games field.

  1. Games for Health: This initiative was designed to promote best practices, community building, and research into how cutting-edge game design and development methodologies can aid in the creation of health tools that range from direct patient application, to personal health education, and workforce initiatives. Get involved!
  2. Serious Games: This initiative is focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges that face the public sector. Part of the overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects that involve the use of games in education, training, health and public policy. This is the parent company to Games for Health noted above.
  3. Health Games Research: This is an $8.25 million national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that supports outstanding research to enhance the quality and impact of interactive games used to improve health. The focus is on development of interactive games that are delivered or supported by digital technology. In January 2009, Health Games Research will issue its next call for
    proposals, awarding up to an additional $2 million in grants in its second round of funding.
  4. Healia: Although this site isn’t a game, it’s a great learning tool for nurses, health care professionals and patients. You can find communities, a health search engine, articles, a blog an videos that help viewers receive support from like-minded participants.
  5. MediGames: Open to members of the medical and health professions, the WMHG are an occasion for all those who work in the world of Health, whatever their level, to meet up in a warm and friendly atmosphere while practicing their favorite sport(s). Every year almost 3000 people participate in this great sporting and professional event, where more than 40 countries are represented.
  6. World Transplant Games: The World Transplant Games are a wonderful celebration of life, providing ‘living proof’ that organ and tissue donation works and allows recipients to return to a productive and fulfilling life. This years’ event will be held on the Gold Coast in Australia.

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