Square Business: Bringing Fun to Health Care Education

2/1/2011

 Of all the words used to describe the health care industry, fun is not usually one of them. Complex and involved are more typical words. There is great skill, deep knowledge and the importance of reacting to ever-changing situations that come with understanding and mastering the world of health care.

Over the last few decades Donald Lombardi, an Affiliate Associate Professor and the Director of the Healthcare Leadership and Management Program at Stevens Institute of Technology, has sought to bring some fun into the industry while trying to recruit a new generation of professionals into the fold.


“High school and college students don’t have an awareness of the types of careers that are available in health care,” said Lombardi. “They think it’s only doctors and nurses.”


In fact, Lombardi says that 60 percent of professionals in the industry are not nurses and doctors and that the majority of people are unaware of how organizations and businesses like hospitals work on the non-medical level.  In giving management seminars to health care professionals, Lombardi found the genesis for an idea that would lead to a game – called Square Business – that would not only help existing professionals but also entice younger students about the rewarding complexities of the industry.


He calls it a combination between Risk and Monopoly, complete with a game board designed by Stevens graduate Katie Lalli. Lombardi also enlisted the services and talents of student Tom Phillips (BS ’12) to move the project along through Stevens’ Technogenesis program.


With questions and scenarios gathered by Lombardi from actual professionals during 20 years of research, participants in the game have two hours to solve 20 situations that can arise in the health care arena.


“It’s a group game,” stated Lombardi. “It’s almost like they are playing Family Feud.” It is point-based with three points for a close answer, one point if the participants try hard to come up with a solution and the loss of a point for “a lousy answer.”


Lombardi credits his colleague at Stevens, Dr. Tal Ben Zvi, for helping to energize the initial concept.


The game has been well received thus far and has been used in hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.


With the physical game being so well received, Lombardi said there is a video game company – Valve Software – that is looking into a joint venture to bring the game to the digital arena.


In presenting the game with his students and colleagues, Lombardi has said that he is always pleased when participants – especially students – have the revelation that there are a lot of opportunities for them in health care aside from medicine.


The medical side isn’t excluded from the game, however. Lombardi says there are students who play that realize that they would like to be a lab director or want to be in charge of, say, an oncology laboratory.


“We have a lot of students who love biomedical engineering,” he said. “These kids are winning science projects, and are discovering there is a place for them in this field.”


As for those already in the field?


“It gives them an opportunity to learn new things, put thoughts into their actions and work with others for a solution,” concluded Lombardi.