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May 15, 2023, 2:20 AM

The Future of Virtual Reality in Nursing Education

The Future of Virtual Reality in Nursing Education

Virtual reality is digitally generated immersive environments that help users gain experience in areas that they might not otherwise have had the ability. VR technology also gives users high risk scenarios that they can experience in a risk-free environment. These are just a few of the reasons that virtual reality in nursing education has become so prevalent.

Though virtual reality gained its popularity in the gaming and entertainment industry, even its creators and early developers touted its potential uses for aviation and military training, as well as its ability to share experiences across cultures and demographics. In the promotional flier for the Sensorama Simulator (developed in the ‘50s by Morton Heilig), one specific use was for the education of the masses, stating that “it dramatically shortens the length of learning time and helps make complicated ideas clear.”

There are many nursing and other medical programs that have taken advantage of the benefits that virtual reality has to offer, creating a clear answer to the question below.

Is Virtual Reality in Nursing Education Effective?

A study performed by the National Library of Medicine on the effectiveness of virtual reality in nursing education determined that in their total of 12 studies (including 821 participants) VR was “more effective than the control conditions in improving knowledge.” (Chen, et. al.) There was no difference found between the two in terms of skills, satisfaction, confidence, and performance, however, it does offer the same experience as physical practice in a stress-free scenario. The resulting conclusion of the study is that VR can effectively improve knowledge in nursing education, and is satisfactory in improving skill level, satisfaction, confidence, and performance time.

Though traditional methods are still an effective way to teach critical working skills to nursing staff and students, virtual reality is an equally justifiable resource that prepares medical staff for practical application. Nurses, it can be agreed, deal with a plethora of complicated information on a daily basis. Most of their educational experience is in the memorization of critical facts of their profession and using virtual reality to help reduce their time in memorization leaves more time for other, more important facts of their job.

To help get a better picture of how effective it actually is, here are 3 Benefits of Virtual Reality in Nursing Education.

1. Virtual reality can provide valuable experience to nurses in training. A common training tactic is “see one, do one, teach one,” detailing the process of opportunity that many medical students are given. This process helps reinforce their understanding of what they’ve learned in school in rapid succession.

VR experiences mimic this process, giving them real world application in a virtual setting. Within the simulation, they have the chance to practice problem solving in a high-risk scenario with less stress than they might have in the real world.

Virtual reality narrows the gap between theory and practice in the educational process. A key component to a nursing education is clinical practice, where students would be able to gain this critical real-world experience. However, limited clinical practice contributes to an ill prepared medical student. Virtual reality helps close that gap by giving this experience, enabling a better prepared workforce.

2. Virtual reality protects patient safety. Patient care is one of the highest priorities in a medical institution. With the ability to practice high-risk procedures in a simulation before practicing them on patients, the simulations provide a way for the students to gain experience in the procedure and understand the inner workings. This ultimately gives the students more confidence without putting the patients in a situation where the risk of inexperience is less of a worry.

3. VR technology enables better distance learning. One major problem found as a result of the pandemic was the disruption in standard medical practices due to social distancing. Nursing education and training felt the effects of the reduction in physical education along with it. Virtual reality readily helped adapt training to the situation while maintaining high engagement levels in L&D (learning and development) and EdTech.

Virtual reality also gives nursing students the opportunity to experience game changing procedures that they may not have been able to otherwise, such as the world’s first live VR surgery broadcast using VR headsets in 2016. This allowed many viewers the opportunity to look down on the patient as if they were the surgeon themselves. In the end, virtual reality creates opportunity, instead of waiting for it to knock.

Some specific use cases for virtual reality in nursing and nursing education include:

- Videos for skills
- Adaptive quizzing and testing
- Online and distance learning
- Analytics tools
- Video conferencing
- Procedural application of skills

Colleges and Universities Using Virtual Reality for Nursing Education

According to Wolters Kluwer in a 2017 survey, 65% of nursing education programs were in the process of adopting virtual simulation into their curriculum. Here are some programs that use virtual reality for educational purposes in 2023.

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is one of the schools leading the charge in advancing education with technology. With the implementation of Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) virtual reality scenarios, they’ve been able to stay ahead of the 2020 closures and maintain educational practices, and help students gain their clinical experience via virtual reality simulation.

Augusta University’s College of Nursing realized that students needed better training in familial support in hospice care. Recent graduates realized that their emotional response to the difficult situation was greater than they had anticipated. In response, the university implemented a virtual reality simulation that allowed the students a form of exposure experience that taught them to handle their own emotional response to better help the patient and their family.

XR Guru’s Immersive Learning Hub includes Virtual Reality for Healthcare and Medical Training. This program helps healthcare professionals obtain hands on skills in low-risk settings. Within the simulation users can perform medical procedures and handle complicated medical equipment in order to gain better medical training. It even helps gain valuable analytics in a separate module that records predetermined criteria.

Due to the innovation of Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing Cassandra Barrow, the University of Tulsa School of Nursing is using virtual reality to help alleviate stress in patients and nurses. Using the VR medical simulations, students can insert catheters, inject medicines, and setting IV drips in a simulated clinical environment. This undergraduate nursing program uses state of the art equipment to train future generations of nurses with ease and precision. Virtual reality makes an excellent tool for nursing education. With the use of virtually simulated clinical environments, the knowledge and experience gained takes them one step closer to a comfortable and confident career within the healthcare field. Students can partake in distance learning opportunities, gain experience in the physical application of medical and patient care, and gain valuable real-world experiences within a simulated environment. Nursing education has always had a hand in highly effective tools that help in the learning process, and the fact that virtual reality has caught the eye of many medical professionals is no surprise. With the implementation of virtual reality in nursing education, healthcare will have a bright future of fully capable staff to work with.

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