Background: we know from qualitative research that care home staff report positive attitudes to research, but that the use of research findings in daily practice is low. Access to information sources (computer and internet) and staff motivation to read research literature in a task-oriented work culture have been cited as potential barriers.
Objectives: to creatively communicate evidence from a systematic review on the impacts of animals on the health and well-being of older people living in care homes, in order to engage care home staff and facilitate better use of research in residential care.
Methods: we developed a board game (Pet Pursuit) by working through four steps (Gröppel-Wegener, 2019). In the diagram stage we focused on the process, breaking it down into individual steps and recording and numbering these on post-it notes to create a flowchart. In the game mechanics stage we considered different ways of introducing potential shortcuts and obstacles, and triggering chance events (e.g. game cards), and added these to the post-it notes. In the visual impact stage we considered potential visuals, illustrated the content of the game and organised the game path. Lastly, in the assembly stage we brought together the previous stages with a sketch of the prototype board game and created rules for gameplay. We shared Pet Pursuit with the wider team and members of the Expert Advisory Group (a care home manager, a care home owner, a vet, and two animal-interaction scientists) and we played the game to test and refine it.
Results: in Pet Pursuit, the ‘game path’ follows the world wide classic ‘snakes and ladders’ board game (with numbered, gridded squares). The key visual is a ‘residential home’ with a resident entering the home without her pet. The findings from the qualitative evidence synthesis informs the content of the game. For example, 'enjoyment through reminiscing' and 'providing comfort' act as ladders, and 'concerns about hygiene' and 'resident develops allergy' act as snakes. Some squares direct the player to pick up a 'Paws card' which makes the player pause to consider issues such as staff training and the practicalities of having resident or visiting animals in the care home. The aim of the game is for the player to become more aware of potential barriers and opportunities of animals within the residential home context based on the key findings from our systematic review, and in so doing better understand the evidence base.
Conclusions: the process of creating Pet Pursuit provided a useful opportunity to discuss the findings of the review in a real-world context, decision making in the care home, whilst incorporating the fun and magic of the board game concept. We plan to use Pet Pursuit as a visual tool to engage care home staff with our research findings.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: representatives from care home settings and animal welfare were involved as members of the Expert Advisory Group.