Virtual reality in medical education

This awareness arose because candidates had told faculty how emotionally unprepared they were when first faced with such a situation. Subsequently, the university set about building a series of virtual reality simulations that allow nursing students to act out different situations.

This enables the students to provide support with more empathy to future patients and their relatives who need it. “We cannot take students to real hospice facilities where patients die. That would not be appropriate. But by presenting a scene to students in virtual reality, they can experience what it will be like in real life,” says Lynsey Steinberg, a board-certified medical illustrator at Augusta University.

Virtual reality headset

For example, using VR headsets, computers and software, students can dissect virtual cadavers; training for surgery, intubation and other procedures. It is also possible to practice various medical situations. From examining and diagnosing patients to dealing with hospice care.

According to the National Library of Medicine, teachers can use several forms of VR in a medical school environment, including 360-degree video and interactive VR. The technology also offers cost savings compared to physical simulations, where the main upfront costs are hardware and software.

Virtual learning

The technology requires less space than physical simulations and can free up faculty time by eliminating the need for instructors to be present in some cases, the National Library of Medicine found. The scenes, each one to three minutes long, include telling family members that their loved one is dying and explaining why the patient looks a certain way and how he or she sounds when he or she speaks. In another scene, a haunted family member asks if she can take her 4-year-old child into the room to say goodbye.

To build the VR scenes, scripts were first written and scenes were filmed using a 360-degree video camera and microphones. Students and staff were used as actors in a patient room in the university’s care simulation centre.

During production, they painted visual effects on the patient’s skin and added vocal sound effects to mimic what patients look and sound like at the end of their lives, Steinberg says. The College of Nursing at the aforementioned university tested the VR scenes with eight graduate students last summer. This was so successful that the college is incorporating it as part of its palliative care content. Approximately 135 nursing students pursuing a bachelor’s degree will go through the VR simulations.

Simulations with 3D animations

Working with a third-party educational VR provider, the university developed immersive simulations using 3D animation in VR to help students learn six essential skills, said Abbey Elliott, assistant dean of Purdue University Global’s School of Nursing. These skills include chest tube insertion and endotracheal intubation. Students purchased Oculus VR headsets, downloaded the app, and in guided mode, the VR application taught them step-by-step how to perform the procedures.

The VR technology received rave reviews from students. A large increase in students’ confidence was seen. The response from the students was overwhelmingly positive as it gave them a lot of flexibility. The students would be much more skilled because they have practiced certain actions in this way many times.

Added value in virtual reality education

As many as 70 percent of medical students believe that using VR and AR to supplement medical education is more beneficial than “classical” or traditional education. The necessary research has also been carried out in the Netherlands and Belgium in the added value of virtual reality in the education and training of medical personnel.

A good example is the Belgian Limburg Care Academy, where nurses and students are trained to aspirate patients with a tracheotomy using Virtual Reality. In addition, there are already a number of examples of virtual reality being successfully used during treatments, pain relief or preparing patients for an operation.

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