BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — An innovative learning experience is being held at Illinois Wesleyan University where nursing students have to use their knowledge to get out of an escape room.

A group of junior nursing students were able to participate in the activity which simulated psychiatric and mental health scenarios. Angel Lee, one of the students who participated, said it was a change of pace from the usual nursing curriculum.

“Normally when we have sims or skills checklists, they give us a document that tells us what we’re expected to do and what we should know how to do, but this time we didn’t have that, so it was kind of a free-thinking moment, you have to use your own critical thinking skills and what you know about nursing as a whole,” Lee said.

Before entering the hospital room with a nursing mannequin as a psychiatric patient, Lee and two other junior nursing students were presented with the patient’s background and details about their condition.

The group then assessed and treated the patient while discovering clues to unlock the puzzle. It was a challenge at times for the students, who expressed frustration and confusion about certain aspects of the simulation.

This is the second year that the University is testing students’ skills in this way. Simulation coordinator Amanda Kemp said it’s a fresh approach to learning.

“We took some feedback from the students, they helped create the clues so it’s a way to combine gaming, competition, making it fun while still getting them to put the pieces of the puzzle together and learn what they need to learn through the course at the same time,” she said.

Kemp also sees the event as a showcase for the importance of collaboration.

“With the puzzles, you have to solve them to get to the next step but you also have to work as a team, I didn’t really think of that at the time though, but after I watched last year, if they get in there and don’t talk and work together as a team, they’re probably not going to make it out in time,” Kemp said.

The escape room learning method will be presented by the University at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Conference on Oct. 4. The theme for this year’s escape room was safety.