The COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemiological measures enforced to slow down its spread have made it difficult for nursing students to train in hospitals. To solve this problem, AdventHealth University (AHU), a Seventh-day Adventist institution, has started using virtual reality technology to provide hands-on training.
“Using this technology [keeps] that experience of group learning together in one capacity and also keeps our students with hands-on opportunities on machines that they would only see in the hospital,” said Brandon Baker, Director of the Immersive Technologies Lab at AHU.
Nursing students can, for example, learn how to use an automated medication dispensing system by practicing with its virtual but functionally identical copy. Such a system wouldn’t otherwise be available to students until their first day in the hospital, especially now when medical equipment is in short supply.
“[Virtual reality] makes you feel comfortable with the machines, with the clinical setting, so that way when you actually go into the OR, I’m familiar with it,” said Jennifer Salazar, a senior nursing student at AHU. Salazar and her classmates can even take virtual reality headsets home with them and participate in virtual lab experiences together after school.
AHU is among the first healthcare education providers in Central Florida to use virtual reality to facilitate healthcare education. It first used the technology in 2015, but the pandemic has accelerated its adoption. Now, over 100 nursing students have learned critical skills using virtual reality, and many more are expected to follow suit.
Earlier this month, a similar virtual reality training initiative aimed at providing nursing students with hands-on clinical experiences was launched by National University, a private university with campuses throughout California. Just like AHU, National University is allowing students to hone important skills without increasing the chance of their exposure to COVID-19.