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Use of gaming apps in SNEC operating theatres

Everyone loves to play games on their mobile phones. Who said coming to work cannot be fun?

SNEC Operation Theatre (OT) nurses have developed a mobile game app to introduce their new staff to Operation Room procedures.


Q: Using a mobile phone app as an induction tool sounds like a great idea. Who came up with it?

We can credit Dr Loh Huey Peng, our Director of Nursing (DN) at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) with that. It was her idea to try design an immersive game which brings the learner into a virtual world where new Registered Nurses (RNs) and our advanced diploma students can learn, first person, how to carry out the tasks required as a scrub and circulating nurse. The idea is to have them better understand the workflow and increase their situational awareness in a safe, less stressful way.

Of course, we hope our new hires will be self-directed in their learning. The game is available in android, apple and PC format, so the user can practice anytime and anywhere. No excuses.

Q: What does the game involve?

The first version which was launched in 2018 had interactive 2D comic and 3D viral work of actual OT scenes, and used scoreboards and feedback summaries to motivate learning.
The second version, launched in 2021, focused on scrub and circulating duties. It also had extended storyboard and games which set out Time-out procedures and basic instrument setup and scrub assisting skills.

Q: Why was it felt this was necessary?

OT is a specialised area, and a fast-paced environment which comes with a steep learning curve for new scrub nurses. New nurses, and student nurses can get very stressed when in an unfamiliar environment. This game allows the nurses to have an overview of the patient flow, operating theatre flow and what to expect before entering the OT.

Staff Nurse Tng Hui Shan guiding staff on using the app

Q: Developing a game app sounds complicated. How did you go about it?

Yes. We needed external help, so we got funding to hire an external vendor.

One of our OT staff, Staff Nurse Tng Hui Shan, worked closely with them. They came into the SNEC OT to understand the flow, took some photos and videos for reference, and transformed them into 2D characters, comics and games required.

Dr Loh Huey Peng and Assistant Nurse Clinician Elizabeth Phua were also crucial figures in providing feedback and ensuring the game was relevant and accurate.

Q: So, what is the reaction of your staff when they first used the app?

Many staff were curious on why they were asked to play a game as part of their training programme when the initial impression they had on operating theatre was a serious clinical setting.

Q: Are there plans to develop this app further?

Sure. Pending approval from SingHealth for funding and we aim to develop the game into a Virtual-Reality (VR) experience whereby it would be even closer to reality.

Q. How useful do you think this sort of app will be in training staff in the future?

Technology is an integral part of our daily lives now, and more steps should be taken to integrate it into our learning and teaching process.

Benefits include:
• Allowing new staff to gain knowledge and experience in a safe, protected environment before being ‘thrown to the sharks’
• Have them be more self-aware about what is occurring around them, and what is expected of them
• Reduces stress of all concerned
• Improves patient safety

In developing such apps, however, we need to make regular updates from time to time, making it compatible with more devices and accessible to more people.

Watch this video on the OT game to find out more:

Internet access required


Contributed by:

Senior Staff Nurse Goh Hui Jin
Nursing (Operating Theatre)
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC)

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