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Nursing Students in and around Houston Experiencing Mixed Reality Simulation Learning

The University of St. Thomas is fulfilling the lack of nursing education professionals by turning to mixed reality (MR) technology. MR solutions are making things better in classrooms and moving beyond being a tool for gaming.

Mixed reality technology is being employed at the University of St. Thomas to accelerate and enhance the teaching of students. This technology functions through the projection of virtual imagery on real-life objects. Since the latter part of last year, nursing students at Montgomery County Shenandoah have delved into simulations to gain some direct experience and exposure to various situations in their domain. One simulation puts forward the task of pediatric patient assessment for student nurses, where the patient had suffered from scrapes and bruises. Students have to don a mixed reality headset and go through the experience in a similar way to they would in the real world.

Reagan Pair, one of the students in the programme, got the experience of listening to the lungs and heart of a 5-year-old patient by using a holographic stethoscope. She also had to ask several questions to the mother of the patient. Several hints Pair uncovered in the simulation led her to an understanding of possible child abuse.

Professor Reynolds is in support of the mixed reality technology being used for teaching purposes. According to him, the simulation can aid students in observing details, becoming more intuitive, and enhancing their soft skills.

Reynolds said that the new technology offering is helping students understand how to gain a good level of control over their emotions during an assessment when they are with a patient. According to him, getting emotional can make things worse and make nurses leave a patient in need without offering proper care.

Students are usually exposed to various situations where they are face to face with patients going through difficult phases, in clinics and hospitals. However, with the pandemic making things difficult for students due to issues with hospital access, such opportunities for interaction became quite scarce.

Students generally practice their nursing skills on mannequins, and the simulations are being seen as better options for learning and polishing skills, according to Kristen Tamez, Director, Nursing Services.

According to Tamez, the institution has various high fidelity mannequins, but those are not capable of showing facial emotions as they are inanimate objects. Mixed reality helps students to learn how they can speak to patients and how to perform assessments

Tamez said that mixed reality technology helps students learn how to converse with and perform visual assessments of students. That is not possible with a mannequin.

The school has also introduced a mental health simulation recently, where students have to identify the different signs of withdrawal from alcohol.

Mike Kramer, a former student who has recently graduated from the institution, and is currently employed as a nurse in the Emergency Department, acknowledged that coming across such patients is common. Kramer had started taking part in the simulation experience in November of last year.

The efforts of St. Thomas in adopting mixed reality technology for nursing training are being seen as a positive move, in a time when many schools are struggling to provide effective instructions.

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