Virtual Reality Game Used to Train Residents on Teamwork

Teamwork and communication are critical to an offensive line on a football team. To actors in a play. To chefs in a restaurant.

And now, to physicians in an emergency room.

Which is why Dr. Mina Attaalla, director of simulation education and informatics at SBH, chose to use a popular virtual reality game, “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” to teach his emergency medicine residents how to function better as a unit.

One resident, wearing a virtual reality mask and holding a mouse, sees the bomb, but lacks the information to do anything about it. He sits in a room with a team of colleagues who have the information to defuse the bomb, but can’t see it. As a result, they must work together.

In this particular session, a group of emergency medicine PGY 3s and 4s (and one medical student) scream out questions to their colleague based on information in the “bomb defusal manual” – Micah, what are the colors How many wires does the bomb have? Is there a serial number? He responds succinctly, typically with a single word answer.

The group has intuitively devised a strategy: each member takes responsibility for quickly summarizing the material in three pages from the manual. With the clock ticking, this allows them to fire off questions in a logical and sequential manner. With minutes still to spare, they get their teammate to cut the red wire, press the buttons in the correct order, and defuse the bomb.

“I thought it went very well,” Dr. Attaalla tells the group. “This group was the fastest in defusing the bomb. I saw a lot of great communications.”

The game, he admits, may be out of the context of clinical work in a busy ER. However, he believes it provides a learning moment, as it employs many of the same team strategies needed to be successful in treating emergency patients.

“I liked that they worked together as team, and decided on a strategy beforehand,” he says. “Are we doing this exactly with clinical patients? Not necessarily, but when the phone rings (in the ER) we need to come
up with a plan that will maximize our efforts.

“Collectively we’re much stronger than we are individually. We need to find out mistakes in a way to have self-actualization and fix them for the clinical environment. This means being as efficient as we can be. Those lessons taught here can be carried over to when it counts.”