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CCAC Nursing faculty publish article touting innovative teaching method in national trade journal

PITTSBURGH—Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) Nursing faculty members Professor Patricia Paul and Assistant Professor Veronica Smith, both of CCAC South Campus, have published an article in Nursing Education Perspectives, the esteemed research journal of the National League for Nursing. The article, “Escape Room: Innovative Teaching Strategy to Stimulate Critical Thinking/Judgment in Nursing Students,” documents their successful Escape Room project, which they presented at the National League for Nursing Conference last September to an enthusiastic audience. The article details their innovative teaching strategy—and the results appear to be well worth the time and effort required to implement it.  

“We put in many hours creating the idea and the puzzles. We were really excited to see our efforts come to fruition and are very thankful to the other CCAC Nursing faculty who provided so much support and assistance on the day we did the ‘escape’ with students,” said Paul, who credits Smith as the catalyst for the project. “Escape room in education is new, but if used effectively, it can reinforce important concepts and learning—plus, it's fun and it keeps students engaged.”

The professors designed three escape rooms as a clinical makeup day for 10 first-year, second-semester associate degree nursing students. Teams of three or four students completed puzzles and tasks to reach designated goals and objectives within a limited time frame. Names and themes for the escape rooms were designed to reinforce vital knowledge, stimulate critical thinking and inspire nursing judgment with regard to concepts taught during the semester. The Bone Dry room focused on fluid/electrolytes with hydration status associated with diabetic ketoacidosis; the Open Wide room highlighted wound dehiscence secondary to inflammation/infection and environmental safety factors; and the All Choked Up room stressed patient oxygenation/safety related to aspiration pneumonia.          

The puzzles constructed for each room included crossword puzzles, cryptograms, letter scrambles, rebus puzzles and Sudoku. The students also completed activities requiring nursing judgment, preparing for anticipated patient treatment and skill performance. Students positively evaluated the experience, indicating they enjoyed learning through gaming. Among their statements were comments such as, “helped me collaborate with others,” “different puzzles required me to think differently,” and “fun, but challenging. Really made you work for it.”  

An excerpt from the article reads, “As nurse educators, we have the continued challenge to prepare nursing students for the ever-changing health care environment. Thinking critically, anticipating care, and making positive clinical judgments maximizing patient safety are vital. Nursing content provides the perfect opportunity to utilize Escape Rooms for learning and concept retention in laboratory and clinical settings. With endless possibilities, educators can change the disease, challenges, and exemplars to reinforce knowledge, limited only by their imagination, motivation, and time.” 

CCAC’s Nursing program delivers an educational experience that thoroughly prepares students for both the required examination and future employment opportunities. CCAC’s current National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) first-time pass rate is 94.69%, which is 9.76% higher than the national mean for all associate degree programs and 6.62% higher than the national mean for all pre-licensure programs (diploma, associate and bachelor). The program also boasts other impressive statistics, including producer of the greatest number of Registered Nurses in Southwestern Pennsylvania and a 90.18% graduate employment rate. In addition, the cost of a Nursing degree at CCAC is the lowest in the region. 

Nursing information sessions will begin in November. Individuals interested in applying to the program can contact Amber Reed, director of Nursing Admissions, at For more information, visit