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How Simulation Escape
Rooms Can Make Learning Stick

Over the past few years, escape rooms have become an increasingly popular educational and training tool. Used originally as a fun social activity, escape rooms are now being used as a means to drive learning. The number of public escape rooms worldwide increased from zero at the outset of 2010 to at least 2,800 today.1 And, as the general public continues to fuel this new entertainment industry, interest among educators has been piqued as well.

Educators have long understood that interactive team dynamics in the classroom can lead to stronger learning outcomes. In recent years, however, game-based learning has become much more prominent - particularly in higher education and in the healthcare industry.

Many escape rooms include elements of simulation and, for this reason, simulation training programs offer the perfect environment to leverage this training method.

In this article, we explain what simulation escape rooms are and how they can effectively make learning stick.

What are Simulation Escape Rooms?

Escape rooms are adventure activities that allow participants to solve hidden puzzles in collaboration with a group while locked in the same room.2

A simulation escape room for healthcare providers or providers-in-training follows a similar structure, but with the intent to improve clinical knowledge and teamwork skills. Typically, a patient case is woven into the narrative of the escape room to allow for more realism and also hands-on skills practice.

In the scenarios, healthcare providers must work together to locate clues and solve puzzles that test their understanding of clinical topics, ultimately saving the patient.

Key Principles of a Sim Escape Room

Simulation escape rooms can vary greatly in how they are designed, but there are key principles required to make any escape room successful. These are just a few:

A Story

The most successful escape rooms suspend disbelief by providing a clinical theme and a patient case as the backdrop to all the puzzle pieces. The simple use of a storyline energizes the experience and encourages learners to take their roles seriously.

A Realistic Environment

Using a realistic clinical environment further enhances the story, but it also reinforces safe patient care behaviors. Setting the escape room in an in situ environment or in a realistic simulation lab gives learners the opportunity to see, feel, and manage patient safety risks.

A Time Limit

All escape rooms have a time limit. The time an organization allots is usually between 15 and 60 minutes depending on the learning objectives and number of puzzles.

An Appropriate Level of Difficulty

While escape rooms are intended to be fun and challenging, they should never be so difficult that a learner can’t «win». Puzzles should test concepts that learners have already been introduced to.

A Debrief Upon Completion

As with any simulation experience, debriefing is essential. Learners benefit from reflecting on the experience, explaining their decisions and actions, discussing what went right and wrong, and asking each other questions.

How Can a Simulation Escape Room Improve Learning Outcomes?

Research shows that escape rooms are positively perceived as an engaging learning strategy by both learners and educators.3 Put another way, escape rooms are fun. And, fun is exactly what many educators and trainers are looking for!

The escape room methodology supports many of the most widely accepted learning theories, including Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning.

Offering an interactive, thought-provoking, hands-on experience, simulation escape rooms address each of the six aspects of learning discussed by Fink:4
  • Foundational knowledge – understanding and remembering information
  • Application – Developing critical, creative, or practical thinking skills
  • Integration – Making connections between the learned material and real-life
  • Human dimension – Learning about oneself or others
  • Caring – Developing new feelings, interests, or values
  • Learning how to learn – Become self-directed learners and asking more questions

Simulation escape rooms combine many best practices in adult education, and as a result they boast a multitude of benefits ranging from increased retention to improved patient-centered care.

Simulation Escape Room Workbook

We've put together a comprehensive guide to designing and facilitating a simulation escape room. Download this workbook to get started on creating your own! 

Download  Workbook


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  1. Market Watch. (2015). The unbelievably lucrative business of escape rooms. Retrieved from
  2. University of Minnesota. (2019). Healthcare escape room design guidebooks. Retrieved from
  3. Brown, N., Darby, W.,&  Coronel, H. (2019). An escape room as a simulation teaching strategy. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 30, p. 1-6. Retrieved from
  4. Fink, L.D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from