Because Adults Need to Play

One of my favorite TedMed 2014 talks is by Jill Vialet, CEO and Founder of Playworks titled “The Power of Play”.  In it Jill describes how people and circumstances are transformed through play. There is actually a physical and mental function which play serves in our daily lives. When I first began educating health care providers in ultrasound internationally, I noticed this. Amidst directing and organizing courses–alternating lectures first, then lectures last; hands-on stations first with flipped classroom pre-class; a half-day course; a two-day course; or even a three-day course. The combination matrix never really mattered and the post-course evaluations never varied.

SonoGames 3However, one key piece of each course always ensured a winning recipe for sealing the learners’ knowledge and ending on a greatly positive note.

That was the final day’s game of Jeopardy®.

Yes, splitting the adult course attendants in two competing teams and having them play a game. Despite the relatively benign prize of candy, having them play promised a room full of noise, laughter, positive feelings, and raving post-course evaluations.

From India, Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Ghana, it didn’t matter the country. It didn’t even matter if they knew the rules of the game. What mattered, and what made the course, was play. This was true for the learners as well as the educators.

As the president of the Academy of Emergency Ultrasound (AEUS) of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) in 2011, I was allotted 4 hours of conference time to plan as I wished. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to create and innovate. I envisioned a 4-hour game event of fun, focused ultrasound education, and resident competition. My friend Y. Teresa Liu, M.D. (Harbor-UCLA Medical Center) had told me about running an ultrasound game event with our mutual good friend David Bahner, MD. (the Ohio State University Medical Center).  I conferred with my education officer Andrew Liteplo, MD. (Massachusetts General Hospital).  He loved the idea.

The SonoGames® was born.

Since that first year, we have increased the aspects and the intensity of play. This past year, the organizing committee dressed in costume commensurate with the conference city. There was a best team costume competition, a best team name award, and the teams competed for medals and for the opportunity to bring the SonoCup to their home institution.

I am convinced that the success of this event is due to its focus on play and fun. We are now planning for the 2016 SonoGames® and I suspect there will be even more play, fun, laughter, and learning.  If you want to learn more about the details of how we structured the games, check out the article that appeared in the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. And, if you think you are up to the challenge, get your 3-member ultrasound-savvy team ready to compete!

How do you play? What other ideas do you have to incorporate play and ultrasound? Have you ever competed in an ultrasound event? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Resa E. Lewiss (@ultrasoundREL) is the Director of Point-of-Care Ultrasound at the University of Colorado. She has published on medical education and Point-of-Care Ultrasound. Check out her TedMed2014 talk.

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