UNE launches virtual reality program for nursing education

Nursing students at the University of New England have a new, state-of-the-art virtual reality program to give them realistic experiences treating patients.

UNE’s Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center is working with Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) to provide students with an immersive virtual reality platform that will advance their clinical decision making and communication skills. The technology allows nursing students to practice treating patients in a simulated, virtual environment, enhancing skills like clinical reasoning, decision making and patient/team communication. This additional opportunity for structured practice results in increased learner competence and confidence in managing complex care.

UNE’s Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center (ISIC) is committed to providing state of the art experiential learning opportunities to health professional students,” said director of clinical simulation Dawne-Marie Dunbar, MSN/Ed., RN, CNE, CHSE. “With the OMS VR platform, we will be able to increase simulation capabilities that offer students access to complex patient care scenarios while optimizing time, space, and resources.”

Simulation is widely regarded as the most effective way of training health care professionals. Health professions students at UNE already receive state-of-the-art simulation training in the ISIC, practicing their skills with actors and manikins in a realistic clinical setting. But high-fidelity simulation requires significant time and space, and as a result, students may only receive two-to-three simulation experiences per year. With virtual reality simulation, students are now able to practice simulated scenarios as often as needed.

This new virtual reality system provides students with access to libraries of nursing scenarios such as sepsis, pneumonia, heart failure, and meningitis. Students enter the interactive virtual scenario using a VR headset and are greeted by a virtual mentor and their patient/family. Through this experience, learners can examine the patient, ask questions, initiate treatment and provide support and reassurance as they would in actual clinical practice. Once the scenario is complete, the platform produces a comprehensive data analytics report providing the student with detailed feedback. This serves as a debriefing tool to guide reflection as to what went well and what they need to improve on.

Westbrook College of Health Professions Dean Karen Pardue, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, shares her enthusiasm in launching this new pedagogy. “Virtual reality simulation represents the next frontier in simulation education. Students from a variety of health professions can engage in high acuity clinical scenarios practicing assessment, intervention and communication skills. Virtual reality simulation can be implemented in flexible ways, with individual students to small groups at the same time, thus rendering scalable and impactful experiential education.”

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