Using co-production and gamification to help students map patient experiences

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Lucy Kirkham is the Adult Nursing and IPE Lead for Nursing and Midwifery at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). We invited Lucy to write a guest blog about how Co:Create and SHU used co-production to design a game that helps multi-disciplinary students produce customer journey maps. Her story is below…


I am a senior lecturer in adult nursing at Sheffield Hallam University and nursing lead for Interprofessional Education (IPE), where a diverse range of professions learn with, from and about each other to build collaborative practice and improve patient experience.

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The final part of this focuses on service improvement. We teach our students about how to lead service improvement with the patient at the centre. We encourage them to consider the principles of co-production, where people who use services, their families or carers and the care providers work together to develop a service which works best for everyone. This occurs over one week and involves 37 facilitators teaching 1000 learners from 15 different professional courses, both pre and post registration!

We also introduce them to tools and techniques which will help in planning, implementing and reviewing their idea. Students are expected to develop their own service improvement idea as part of their assessment, to prepare them for leading change in practice.

Why did we decide to develop a game?

Our module runs twice a year and I always evaluate my module formally and informally to see how we can improve things. This year I set up an online page where students could feedback on their experience as soon as teaching was finished. Feedback was very positive, but it was clear there was an issue with consistency: not everyone was receiving the same activities. And not everyone could see the rationale for the activities or how they linked to practice.

Staff feedback confirmed this: they didn’t enjoy facilitating the last activity and sometimes found an alternative or just discussed the principles. It was clear we needed to find a new activity which was interprofessional, fun, relevant to clinical practice, made the assignment brief clearer, was easier for facilitators to deliver and was more environmentally friendly as we were currently wasting lots of paper! A tall order, to say the least.

How Co:Create helped us!

If we were teaching students to co-produce improvement work with the people who would be using services, then we should follow the same principles. We had recently been lucky enough to develop a relationship with the team at Co:Create so I asked if they would be able to help us explore this.

We then had a workshop with Co:Create to ideate the following:

  • what we needed and wanted
  • what students needed and wanted
  • what our stakeholders (employers and service users) needed and wanted
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This was really fun and I loved the methods they used to structure our meeting, for example the ‘cocktail party’ information gathering session where we each considered what success would look like, how we could ensure the values of coproduction are understood, how we could ensure that what the students learn stays with them and what we should be mindful of.

We then began to draft out a potential structure for the session. At this point a member of the team suggested a murder mystery style format which got us all thinking about a Cluedo style game and the idea began to really develop! I certainly had lots of things to take away and explore further. I began to research game design and look at other games already out there. I spoke to colleagues and stakeholders and considered the constraints of such a large group of people all playing the game at once.

I used an online survey to ask our students more about what they needed and invite them to a focus group. We refined our ideas for a game and developed a prototype. Co:Create facilitated the focus group. This time we looked at refining the design and prototype, testing it and tweaking it using rapid prototyping techniques. We had to consider logistics such as the cost of the 200 copies we would need and the simplicity of the instructions to ensure students all received the same experience.

We decided to develop a video to introduce the activity to ensure we highlighted key points such as the relevance to practice and the importance of keeping the patient at the centre of the service improvement. I liaised with our faculty technical team to develop our game and the printed cards ready to use in IPE week.

The game we created

We have developed a game which uses “hello, my name is…” to introduce a patient to the group. This was a service improvement developed by Kate Granger, a doctor with cancer who recognised that care is often very impersonal and we don’t always introduce ourselves. This means the game is different every time it is played, depending on the card selected.

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Students select a card explaining the scenario. They are asked to draw a process map looking at the patient journey. Then they pick a further card: the “Care Opinion” card. This provides them with service user feedback explaining the patient’s perspective and their experience, which helps them to develop their process map from a co-production perspective and go on to develop their service improvement as they progress through the game.

Every time the game is played it will be a different patient in a different location with a different experience so the service improvement possibilities are endless. We will be delivering this activity at the start of the new curriculum and will share how it goes, so keep an eye on the Co:Create website and Twitter. And, of course, we’ll be collecting feedback from students and staff, to help us improve it.

Emma Ward