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As Penn gears up for the Year of Games, the School of Nursing will join in the fun by creating a unique competition.

The idea began last fall, when Dean of the Nursing School Afaf Meleis attended a retreat where Nursing faculty and administrators reviewed the school’s strategic goals over the past five years.

Meleis used the retreat to pose a new challenge for the Nursing faculty and asked them to come up with a new five-year goal.

The answer was unanimous. Nursing faculty said they wanted to see their students create a best-selling mobile application to address health concerns and recruitment. Not only would the app educate people about the nursing occupation, but it would also aim to inspire younger individuals to enter the medical field as nursing practitioners.

While the competition was developed well before the Provost’s office announced the 2011-2012 theme of “the Year of Games,” Meleis is excited to promote the competition under the theme.

“The idea of looking at solutions for healthcare issues or problems … it’s just a phenomenal thing to do,” Nursing professor Nancy Hanrahan said. “That no one in the University is doing that is amazing. We’ve got so many problems.”

For Hanrahan, the question of leading the project was a no-brainer.

“[Hanrahan] is an innovative faculty leader and an inspirational teacher. She became the champion of the competition,” Meleis said.

During this time, issued a project to build mobile apps that would improve the quality of health care provided by doctors and nurses around the city.

After hearing about the project, Hanrahan began to muse about how new technology could be utilized by Penn Nursing students.

“I thought, ‘How can this technology be useful for us, for getting people what they need faster, more efficiently and more effectively than we have before?’” Hanrahan said.

“What if you could take your smart phone, and you had an application that could tell you how long the wait time is in the emergency room? When I heard that idea, I thought that was incredible. That is what we want to do,” Hanrahan said.

Students must enter the competition — which is also open to undergraduate and graduate students outside of the Nursing School — in groups of three to five by Oct. 28.

Each team will identify a current problem in the medical field and create a design to satisfy that problem.

In the spring of 2012, the groups will present their projects at the Game Solutions for Healthcare GALA. The top three teams will have the opportunity to win cash prizes anywhere from $500 to $1,500. The Nursing School will then assist the winners to write a proposal to fund their respective projects.

“We want students to think creatively and out-of-the-box about what kinds of innovative ideas that might help [the medical field],” Meleis said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what will come out of this. Jane McGonigal noted that ‘uncertainty is part of the fun of a game,’” Hanrahan said, referring to the author 2011 Penn Reading Project book Reality is Broken. “And that’s what this whole project is about.”

Information sessions for the competition will take place between Sept. 20-22 in Fagin Hall.

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