Nursing education mainly comprises classroom teaching and clinical practice. Yet, face-to-face teaching and clinical placements at medical institutions have been affected amid the epidemic. With a view to enhancing the training and learning experience of nursing students, a research team led by Dr Justina LIU, Associate Professor of School of Nursing, and Dr Kitty CHAN, Senior Teaching Fellow of the same school, has developed a virtual learning system “Virtual Hospital” which makes use of virtual reality (VR) technology to offer an innovative experiential approach to nursing education.
Virtual Hospital is the first-of-its-kind virtual learning system in Hong Kong that simulates the complex and chaotic environment of a real-life hospital ward. With a total of 11 games, the system provides five scenarios, namely “Clinical Practicum Orientation”, “Challenges of Delirium”, “Managing Multitasks”, “Prevention of Errors” and “Potential Heart Attack”. More than 1,200 combinations of randomised situations and multiple choices make it difficult for students to predict the tasks they will be handling, while they are required to provide instant responses to multitasks and make appropriate nursing decisions through assessing a patient’s condition and interpreting their medical information.
Dr Kitty Chan said, “Most of the existing VR learning systems are skill and procedure focused, and adopt a single patient management setting. The PolyU-developed Virtual Hospital requires students to handle multiple beds and take care of multiple patients at the same time. Unexpected incidents and clinical pitfalls are generated to test the student’s ability to apply their knowledge and prioritise nursing tasks amid various disruptions within a limited time. Through the VR experiential learning, students can improve the soft skills that are essential for their clinical practice, including situation awareness, flexibility to handle emergencies, as well as decision making and communication skills.”
Virtual Hospital allows users’ responses and decisions to be displayed on a TV monitor for group participation, while their communication with the virtual patients can be recorded for review. By answering multiple-choice questions, the student can reflect on the judgements and decisions made. In addition, the game data and the automated assessment function of the system also provide convenience for teachers in tracking students’ progress and evaluating learning outcomes.
Since its launch in January this year, Virtual Hospital has benefited over 450 nursing students. Dr Justina Liu said, “Virtual Hospital provides our students with a cooperative case-based learning opportunity. Supplemented with our current practice on patient simulators, I hope that the Virtual Hospital can further help our students master the skills that are required for clinical nursing and most importantly for reducing errors in actual clinical situations.”
Dr Liu continued, “We are pleased that the virtual learning system has received positive feedback from students, and we look forward to incorporating interprofessional and interdisciplinary elements in the future, as well as introducing the system to other nursing institutions in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.”
Ariel Cheng, a Year-3 student from PolyU School of Nursing, was impressed by the fidelity of the Virtual Hospital in terms of the environmental details. She said the VR learning experience had strengthened her confidence in clinical practice as the system allowed every student to deal with nursing problems on their own, which helps them better prepare for the stressful work situation faced by nurses in the real clinical environment.