1. Hanes, Jeanne M. MSN, RN

Article Content

Play for Pottery: A Staff Development Teaching Strategy

Motivating a busy nursing staff to attend continuing education events and inservice classes can be a full-time job for a nurse educator. Enhancing self-directed learning methods by presenting continuing education to staff members in a game format can be highly motivating. Adding a bit of healthy competition to a motivational game can be a very effective staff development tool. These were the key elements in developing the Play for Pottery game.


As an educator, I am always looking for innovative ideas to encourage and challenge the nursing staff and incorporate fun into learning. According to Herman (2002), "educational content that is presented, attended to, remembered and reinforced in a 'fun setting' will have a greater likelihood of being learned" (p. 222). Infusing fun in the self-directed learning format and adding a bit of healthy competition was the framework for this educational offering.


In addition to my position as an educator, I am an avid potter. I always have functional pottery pieces on hand, especially tableware, to give as gifts to family and friends. Some of these pottery pieces were used as prizes for the winters of the Play for Pottery game.


The Play for Pottery game is based on the self-directed learning method. First, a learning needs assessment of the staff was conducted. Topics were identified and objectives were constructed. Senior staff members were involved in choosing the topic among the identified learning needs. A self-directed learning format was chosen because it is especially useful for educational offerings with a cognitive learning focus.


In the first Play for Pottery game, a case study with accompanying rhythm strip was posted and discussed at staff meetings. Staff members were enthusiastic and motivated about the game and the potential for winning pottery. Staff answered questions with short-answer responses regarding identification of the rhythm, prioritization of patient problems, and nursing interventions. There are many advantages of short-answer responses. In the Play for Pottery game, short-answer responses clearly identified additional learning needs. Staff nurses returned completed answer sheets by the posted date. Correct responses to targeted critical questions had to be written on the completed answer sheet to be counted as correct. All staff members who scored 80% or greater were entered into the drawing. The time of the drawing was announced and held at a staff meeting. Correct answers were reviewed and discussed before the drawing and were posted on the unit to ensure that all staff learned the correct responses to every question. The first two names drawn won a piece of pottery. Pictures of winners with the pottery pieces were posted on the unit. Staff nurses were awarded inservice hours that could be countered toward advancement on the clinical ladder. Play for Pottery was continued every other month, and staff were expected to participate.


Subsequent games have included hospital and unit-based competencies, comprehensive self-directed learning modules, and article reviews with post tests. Choices between multiple learning activities contained in the modules were added in later games to appeal to everyone's diverse learning styles.


Given the speed at which clinical information becomes out of date, nurses must keep clinically current to provide the best possible care for patients. According to Griffitts (2002), "experts place the half-life of professional nursing knowledge between two and five years" (p. 23). Building professional knowledge can decrease stress related to an increasingly challenging clinical environment.


Continuing education is frequently offered in many forms, such as self-directed learning packets, seminars, and hospital inservice classes and individual self-study. Although it is an expectation that hospitals provide education to staff members, it is the responsibility of the individual nurse to keep current in knowledge and skill.


The Play for Pottery game has been a popular, cost-effective learning activity that has maintained ongoing interest from staff members. Nurses stop me in the hall to inquire enthusiastically when the next game will be posted.


Over the past two years, staff participation in the game has increased to 80%. Staff nurses can use down time to complete answer sheets, and they express a preference for all of the staff to be included in the game. Motivating learners with friendly competition has been very successful. Nurses enjoy rewards for their efforts and the group recognition that winning provides.


You may not be a potter, but by adding a bit of creativity to motivate and inspire staff, you can have a positive impact on learning outcomes.




Griffitts, L. D. (2002). Geared to achieve with lifelong learning. Nursing Management, 33(11), 22-25. [Context Link]


Herrman, J. (2002). The 60-second nurse educator: Creative strategies to inspire learning. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 23(5), 222-227. [Context Link]