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VR Ward Being Used by Student Nurses to Spot Sepsis

Middlesex University in London has invested in developing latest technology enabling student nurses to work in a virtual reality (VR) hospital ward. They are utilizing the technology to spot sepsis-afflicted patients and for treating other ailments.

The university has bought five purpose-specific VR headsets from Oxford Medical Simulation to recreate real-life scenarios nurses may face, within a virtual environment setting. According to the institution, it is among the first universities to present the technology for student nurses.

Students putting on the Oculus Rift VR headsets are taken to the environs of an immersive and interactive ward. There, they are tasked with asking questions to patients for diagnostic purposes, and choosing the most relevant treatment procedures. Simultaneously, the students must ascertain that certain routine procedures are followed.

The VR experience for student nurses. Image source: medtechnews

The VR simulation technology lets students build up their tenacity for handling 20 scenarios simulated through the Oculus Rift VR headsets. Some scenarios involve patients with allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. The university emphasized how one of the simulations involve a sepsis-affected patient, how the body responds to infection physiologically, and clinical presentation.

Sarah Chitongo, a Middlesex University midwifery educator, remarked that sepsis is one of the main scenarios due to its time-critical nature. Chitongo revealed more about the VR experience, saying that nursing students are given an hour to ascertain the diagnosis is made, along with the administration of relevant prescription antibiotics. Each additional hour required to complete the mission bumps up the mortality rate of patients by 8 percent. She spoke about sepsis, explaining how the condition sabotages vital internal organs. Observing the clinical presentation of patients signifies the clinical signs of the condition.

The VR wards program is currently being used by third-year adult nursing and pediatric postgraduates. There are plans for making the program available to students of midwifery in 2020. Each student can expect to receive personalized feedback accompanies by grades generated through a comprehensive ‘analytics engine’, after the completion of VR training. The grading and feedback engine aid students in assessing their performance with teachers.

Checking virtual patients in VR. Image source: rcni

Fiona Suthers, Head of the Clinical Skills Department at Middlesex University, explained that this VR simulation and all others are dependent on cross-examining through a specific system for evaluation. She said nursing students who get the feedback can evaluate their performances and talk about them following some self-rating. It initiates learning through a right or wrong modality and solidifies the knowledge-base of the students. According to Suthers, the VR technology is enabling students to fail without suffering any consequences.

Middlesex University is among approximately 30 UK institutions utilizing the OMS VR training setup. The platform is the latest VR equipment investment by the university’s school of health and education, following its cutting-edge four-bed virtual ward simulation in 2019. The ward features an augmented reality (AR) pregnant woman, and can simulate normal and emergency delivery scenarios.

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