Campus News

‘Friday Night at the ER’ helps students learn collaboration

Students play "Friday Night at the ER.".

First-year health professions students play "Friday Night at the ER," a board game that helps them develop their teamwork and collaboration skills. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published October 15, 2021

Kelly Foltz-Ramos.
“Learning through playing Friday Night at the ER does not feel like learning. ”
Kelly Foltz-Ramos, director of simulation and assistant professor
School of Nursing

Nearly 400 first-year health professions students at UB learned a vital skill — one that they’ll rely on frequently when they enter the workforce — by participating in a game called “Friday Night at the ER.”

UB’s Office of Interprofessional Education (IPE) held nine sessions of the game, which teaches the importance of collaboration, over the past month, with students in the programs of athletic training, audiology, counseling psychology, dietetics, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant (Canisius College), public health, social work and speech language pathology participating. The last session took place on Monday.

The game provided an opportunity for new health professions students to engage in interprofessional education — learning about, from and with students in other health professions programs — during their first semester of study.

“Playing the serious game Friday Night at the ER provides our first-year health professions students with an opportunity to begin developing their teamwork and collaboration skills — skills that are essential to ensure optimal health care outcomes — and the students are accomplishing this goal in a fun environment,” says Patricia J. Ohtake, assistant vice president for interprofessional education and an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The game is used by Fortune 500 companies and universities to teach the principles of collaboration, innovation and data-driven decision-making in a casual, fun environment. It challenges teams of four players to manage a busy hospital during a simulated 24-hour period.

“The experience focuses on collaboration, innovation and data-driven decision-making, which are all core strategies to high-functioning interprofessional teams,” says Nicholas Fusco, clinical associate professor and vice chair for education, practice and service in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, adding that Friday Night at the ER was important for pharmacy students because it brought them together with students from other health profession programs, for the first time, to learn and practice essential skills.

Patricia Ohtake introduces the game "Friday night at the ER.".

Patricia Ohtake, assistant vice president for interprofessional education, introduces the game. Photo: Douglas Levere

During each simulated hour of the game, patients arrive, are transferred throughout the hospital and exit the hospital when they finish their care. The four players at each board work collaboratively to ensure high-quality health care is delivered while costs are contained.

“It emphasized the need for solid communication to ensure we were taking care of the patients,” says Reem Berman, a geriatric research associate in the Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who is also in the first semester of the master of public health program in the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“It gave us some insight into health administration and how tough decisions need to be made on the spot,” Berman adds. “I appreciated the sense the game gave of what different departments deal with, and how they all determine the rate of care the emergency department can provide.”

“Learning through playing Friday Night at the ER does not feel like learning,” adds Kelly Foltz-Ramos, director of simulation and assistant professor in the School of Nursing. “It is fantastic to watch nursing and other health professions students totally engaged around a game board, chatting and laughing while acquiring invaluable knowledge about systems thinking, including collaboration, innovation and data-driven decision-making.”

Despite the many business-side decisions that need to be made while playing the game, Friday Night at the ER serves as a reminder of who the health professions students are in the business for, says Berman.

“Our health care system is a business-generating model, and often that comes between the quality of care. As health care professionals, it’s essential to remind ourselves that the data we work with are people, not just numbers.”

Martin Vidal, a 2003 alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences, and president and CEO of Trusted Nurse Staffing, is acutely aware of the importance of interprofessional education and collaborative experiences for health care students. He generously donated $3,500 in support of this initiative, funds that will enable the Office of Interprofessional Education to purchase a set of new game boards for the experience.