Board and video game aims to improve neonatal resuscitation training

Provides a cheaper and alternate solution for clinicians

Tamara Vineberg - 3 June 2019

Imagine it's your first night on call in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and you are called to attend a delivery of a newborn infant. What do you do?

Georg Schmölzer hopes healthcare providers will quickly remember what steps to take if they have played a board or video game that he and his team have designed. RETAIN focuses on improving knowledge retention through gaming simulation. "The game is really stressful because it's about real life resuscitation," says Schmölzer, an associate professor in the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Care.

Schmölzer brought together experts from the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Science and the Office of Education in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry to develop the video game. They used a database of over 270 newborn deliveries from previous research studies to create possible scenarios for the game. The board game evolved from the video game, to make the training more accessible for those without computers and to focus on communication between healthcare providers. Nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, and medical trainees were consulted for feedback to help refine and create the final version for both games.

Where the video game has the scenarios programmed in, the board game uses a booklet for a facilitator to guide the players along. "The booklet is well enough described that anybody can be a facilitator. The facilitator knows the baby's heart rate, the oxygen saturation, and what happened to the baby so they can guide accordingly," explains Schmölzer. Players select which healthcare provider role they want to be and use the cardboard cutouts of equipment suited for their role.

"There is a need to get cheap and effective solutions," he says. There can be barriers to access training and refreshing knowledge with current methods. Typically, healthcare providers have to take time off work to train every two years for neonatal resuscitation in a specialized simulation lab that uses mannequins. A professional who is trained in running the simulation is also required. By using the board game or the web-based video game, Schmölzer says training can be ongoing with fewer expenses and the users will remember what they have practised. RETAIN is something that could be played on a lunch break.

Schmölzer has conducted several research projects on the development and the effectiveness of the game. One of his studies determined that 30 health-care professionals from the Royal Alexandra Hospital increased their knowledge retention by 12 per cent between pre- and post-test use of the game. The publication of his paper has sparked interest in RETAIN from colleagues around the world who are asking for the game to be translated. "We want to sell it globally as soon as possible. There's many more babies dying in the developing world than in Edmonton," says Schmölzer who estimates the retail price of the board game to be around $200 for the developed world with less expensive options for the developing world.

The next step for RETAIN is to develop it further using virtual reality. For example, Schmölzer envisions healthcare providers in rural areas wearing virtual reality glasses and logging into the game on a computer. "There are endless possibilities," he says.

Game development team members include Maria Cutumisu (Faculty of Education and Faculty of Science), Matthew Brown (Faculty of Science - Computing Science), Patrick von Hauff (Academic Technologies), Thomas Jeffery (Academic Technologies), students Simran Ghoman (Pediatrics) and Siddhi Patel (Pediatrics). Others who have been involved are Kumar Kumaran (Pediatrics), Vadim Bulitko (Faculty of Science - Computing Science), and undergraduate students Jessica Hong, Ivan Swedberg and William Thoang.

More information about RETAIN can be found at