Years Before COVID-19, Zombies Helped Prepare One Hospital System for the Real Pandemic

Maddie Bender: That is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I’m Maddie Bender.

In central Texas, at the back of a blacked-out authorities bus, three well being staff stood over coughing sufferers. That they had 10 minutes to placed on private protecting gear and carry out nasal swab on the contaminated.

Nurse: So proper right here, sir. And we’re gonna return down and twirl this round. I’m so sorry. Okay, and now we’re going to do one on the opposite facet, and that’ll be it. Alright, you probably did good.

Bender: This, sadly, would possibly sound like a voice we’ve heard over the past 12 months as we acquired a nasal swab for COVID-19.

Participant One: Speak to us about the way you have been feeling by this complete situation, with these sufferers who’re coughing, and we don’t know what this virus is.

Participant Two: Very nervous. I used to be scared as a result of I didn’t know precisely what to do.

Bender: The factor is—none of this was actual. The sufferers have been mannequins, and this was completed in 2019. However it positive turned out to be prescient. And extra importantly, based on new analysis, it helped a well being care system put together for when the precise lethal pandemic arrived in the US in 2020—all due to escape rooms and zombies.

[CLIP: Zombie sounds]

Bender: Likelihood is you’ve been to or heard about escape rooms, that are timed video games the place groups discover clues and clear up puzzles with the aim of getting out of a room. At the moment there are tens of 1000’s of them worldwide.

However in 2017 Kristy Causey and Grace Boseman needed to convey a distinct type of escape room to the Central Texas Veterans Well being Care System. They designed an interactive expertise to spotlight the significance of handwashing and correct use of private protecting gear, or PPE.

Two years and 5 iterations later, they modified the theme to pandemic influenza. However once they have been first beginning out, they took inspiration from a preferred TV present on the time.

Causey: We had zombie sounds taking part in all through the room. We had simulated blood that we had positioned on the partitions. Any person donated a projector that had zombies type of trying like they have been making an attempt to come back by a window, so we put that up.

Bender: That’s Causey, whose official function is the simulation educator for the Central Texas Veterans Well being Care System. She says that boring PowerPoints to show clinicians about an infection prevention merely weren’t slicing it, so when Boseman got here to her with the thought for a zombie-themed escape room, she says it was a no-brainer—if a novel method.

Causey: We began searching for articles and, at the moment, discovered just one article within the literature that mentioned they’d even tried to do an escape room inside a well being care setting.

Bender: Causey and Boseman needed to attract consideration to those extremely efficient an infection prevention practices—and what occurs if you don’t comply with them.

Boseman: Once they peel off the dressing of a wound, Christie pushes a button, and whoever is shut by will get sprayed with water.

Bender: That’s Boseman, an an infection prevention specialist on the Central Texas VA. PPE adherence wasn’t simply taught by bounce scares—the duo included finest practices into the material of their escape rooms.

As an illustration, Causey and Boseman seen that clinicians usually swimsuit up with out checking their gear, so that they wrote one of many clues on a disposable glove. They taped a capsule with one other clue to the bottom of a sink in order that it could fall out when individuals went to clean their palms.

In keeping with Boseman, it was necessary that the training didn’t finish within the room. She and Causey led workers by a debrief the place they talked about PPE dos and don’ts. However they needed to do extra than simply inform them—they needed to indicate how pathogens can unfold with out efficient PPE. They unfold dollar-store dish cleaning soap laced with fluorescent Glo Germ over surfaces and mannequins that have been standing in for contaminated sufferers.

Pay attention what occurred once they shone a UV mild on individuals’ gloves and robes after a spherical of their sixth escape room, held in 2019—simply months earlier than the actual pandemic hit.

Causey: We’re going to end up the lights now.

Boseman: So now, for the second of fact, let’s check out your gloves and your PPE to see when you have any on you. So stick your palms out for me and let’s see. You’ve acquired some spots there.

Participant One: Oh, wow.

Participant Two: You imply if i didn’t have this on, I might take this house?

Boseman: Right. Sure, sir.

Participant Two: Oh my.

Bender: Did the flashy demonstration work long-term, although? Causey and Boseman despatched round a survey to flee room individuals—three months after the expertise, 61 p.c of workers mentioned they have been washing their palms extra due to the exercise. The pair introduced these outcomes not too long ago on the annual assembly of the Affiliation for Professionals in An infection Management and Epidemiology.

Boseman says that, paradoxically, lots of the individuals thought the situation was unlikely to ever occur in actual life.

Boseman: The situation that we had for the flu bus was that we have been overrun by sufferers in our facility, so we needed to transport them to Dallas. And that basically occurred a 12 months later, once we acquired the second surge of COVID in our facility and actually did have to move sufferers to our Dallas facility.

Bender: As a result of pandemic, the pair needed to put the rooms on pause. However with vaccinations on the rise, they’re hopeful that they’ll convey the room again in time for October—with a number of adjustments, in fact.

Boseman: We’re operating out of clues, so we have to get extra artistic.

Bender: Thanks for listening. For Scientific American 60-Second Science, I’m Maddie Bender.

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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