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Virtual reality training put to the test at TUH

Published:  10 February 2021

A new trial that could be a scene taken straight from the Matrix movies has seen Townsville University Hospital staff step into a virtual world where they must respond to emergency medical scenarios.

Project lead and nurse educator Cath Betcher said the trial looked at whether virtual reality (VR) could be integrated into clinical education to boost learning outcomes for clinicians.

“Essentially, staff are placed into a virtual scenario where a patient has a medical emergency and the clinician has to use their clinical skills to navigate a positive outcome for the patient,” Cath said.

“Some of the scenarios include a patient going into anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest or pre-eclampsia.”

Cath said the program was about teaching technical skills that were difficult to replicate in a training environment.

“A medical emergency is a high-stress situation. Clinicians can learn the theoretical and technical skills needed to react to a medical emergency; however, it’s difficult to learn how to react under immense pressure until you’re in the situation,” Cath said.

“The VR scenarios allow a clinician to assess the patient, perform and interpret investigations, form a diagnosis and treat the patient.

“The scenarios can be performed as a single player working alongside an avatar assistant or as dual player where two staff members work together to treat the patient in a safe, controlled, virtual environment.

“It’s actually really incredible to watch as a clinician immerses themselves into the situation; it’s like a switch it’s so realistic for them.”

Cath said participants had been very impressed with the program.

“So far we’ve had more than 100 staff complete the scenario training,” Cath said.

“We had a few who were quite sceptical at the beginning; however, by the end they actually found the experience really valuable.

“The program also gives you feedback, so the idea is that staff could run the simulation regularly to enhance their skills and reinforce the way they would react to, and treat, a patient in a medical emergency."

The virtual reality clinical education trial is a joint project between Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Clinical Skills Development Service and Oxford Medical Simulation. The trial is the first of its kind in Queensland and has run over a three-month period.

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