Games for healthcare: Professor Nancy Hanrahan on Penn's "Game Solutions for Healthcare initiative" - Technical.ly Philly

Mar. 9, 2012 12:30 pm

Games for healthcare: Professor Nancy Hanrahan on Penn’s “Game Solutions for Healthcare initiative”

For the University of Pennsylvania, the 2011-2012 academic year has been dubbed “The Year of the Game.” The University’s various departments are all encouraged to weave games into curricula. The folks at Penn Nursing School, however, are taking it to a whole other level. The school’s “Game Solutions for Healthcare initiative” put out an open call to all Penn […]

For the University of Pennsylvania, the 2011-2012 academic year has been dubbed “The Year of the Game.” The University’s various departments are all encouraged to weave games into curricula. The folks at Penn Nursing School, however, are taking it to a whole other level.

The school’s “Game Solutions for Healthcare initiative” put out an open call to all Penn students to help create games that would improve the healthcare industry, specifically the nurse-patient relationship. While the school only expected five entries into the contest, they’ve received 10.

And, according to Professor Nancy Hanrahan, the contest has not only reshaped the way the school thinks about solving healthcare problems, but is also challenging the way its students have learned for decades.

“My hope for the future is that we don’t have these silos of separate schools at a university,” says Hanrahan.

All of the games will be on display for the award ceremony on April 19th that is open to the public.

After the jump we ask Hanrahan about her favorite games, how this hopes to change the nursing field and why she loves engineers.

Nancy Hanrahan

As someone who has pretty much no experience in healthcare, nursing and the world of academia, can you explain this to me like I’m five?

This event grew out of the university’s decision to make this “The Year of the Game.”  Nurses are at the bedside 24/7, they’re listening and knowing what makes people better more than anyone. I proposed doing something like Health 2.0 (ed note: sort of like a health X-prize). We don’t have that kind of scale but we do have some pretty incredible resources.

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Here, everyone kind of lives in their own school so we’ve been working with the engineering school to bring together very creative smart nurses with these very creative and smart engineers to come up with some projects.

What are the incentives for the students to participate?

These students were just waiting for something like this.

Can you give us an example of the games people are making?

When you hear in the news about soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a lot of distressing information about how they are integrating into society. One of our games is “Mission Reintegration” that uses dice and cards that helps educate the solider on the ramifications of reintroducing themselves to their old lives.

The idea is that while they re deployed they’d use this as a tool to begin to look at the issues they are going to face, but also keep stay connected to their community and friend by playing the game with their fellow soldiers.

This other game was designed by nursing students only, in this one they are testing the game out in juvenile dentition centers and they made a game called “Body Wars.” The hope is that the adolescent makes the connection between drugs, food and sex and the effects on their body. It’s kind of like “Operation.” They tried the game with the group, and the adolescents got very competitive. They loved it.

Whats the hope for an events like this? What do you hope to accomplish?

You don’t hear much about what nurses do. The idea that these nurses are bonding with other students with different skills has a created a phenomena here. We hope to build on it.

Below, a TED talk about how gaming can make a better world.

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Sean Blanda is an adviser to Technical.ly, the local technology news network, having cofounded its flagship Technically Philly in February 2009. He is a media consultant, engagement editor for Behance and lives in Brooklyn, NYC.

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