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NAEMSP 2018 Quick Take: Using video games to improve pediatric disaster education

Gamification of EMS training took center stage at the 2018 NAEMSP Annual Meeting


Pediatrics disaster education is also disaster education.

Courtesy photo

SAN DIEGO — The use of video games to facilitate training, commonly referred to as gamification, is well-established in many industries, however, its application in healthcare is variable. The Pediatric Research in Disaster Education (PRIDE) team is trying to change that.

The team recently presented their research on a video game-based training tool at the National Association of EMS Physicians Annual Meeting. This tool acts as a digital tabletop platform that allows providers to test their disaster triage skills in an asynchronous format.

Memorable quotes on pediatric disaster education

Dr. Mark Cicero, principal investigator for PRIDE, kept the audience engaged through demonstrations of the game and a few memorable quotes including:

  • “Pediatrics disaster education is also disaster education.”
  • “Dealing with this population is the convergence of uncommon situations and uncommon patients.”
  • “Video games are a rising means of medical education.”
  • “We’ve moved past the point where representing children in these exercises is optional.”

Key takeaways on pediatric disaster care and training

Cicero made the following points about pediatric disaster care and training.

1. Children are disproportionately impacted by disasters

Not only are they reliant on adults to flee from a disaster, but separation from family is more likely to impact children emotionally. Physiologically children have less of a capacity to withstand hemorrhage and are more likely to hold in toxins. Children also have a higher likelihood of living in poverty, which is an independent predictor of disease.

2. Video game education has a number of advantages

As the digital platform allows for all patient types to be represented, a large variety of pediatric cases can be portrayed. The scenarios used by the PRIDE team included a house fire, school shooting and school bus rollover, as all are generalizable across the country.

The video game also supports a standardized learning experience without the need for all learners to be in the same place at the same time. While the feedback is immediate, there is no need for instructors, as all rules are contained within the game.

3. Video game education also has some drawbacks

The lack of realism increases the risk of distractions and reduces the emotional connection typically created during a live simulation. While this can be corrected with the automatic feedback provided during a session, video games are still extremely expensive to create and harder to update as triage systems evolve.

4. Jury on efficacy of video game education is still out

Live simulation is known to increase knowledge retention six months later versus a control group. This research showed that video games have a similar impact on retention as the control group, however there were a number of limitations to the study that suggest the results may have been confounded.

Learn more about pediatric disaster training

Learn more about treating the pediatric population and training for a pediatric disaster with the following articles from EMS1:

Catherine R. Counts, PHD, MHA, is a health services researcher with Seattle Medic One in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She received both her PhD and MHA from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Counts has research interests in domestic healthcare policy, quality, patient safety, organizational theory and culture, and pre-hospital emergency medicine. She is a member of the National Association of EMS Physicians and AcademyHealth. In her free time she trains Bruno, her USAR canine.

Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website, or reach out via email at