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Students experiencing VR nusing
Clockwise from the top: Nursing clinical supervisors Karen Pileggi, Adesola Anjola, Shauna Smith, Victoria Jno Ville, Harjit Brar and Sherwin Samaroo use Oxford Medical Simulation to help students gain real-life clinical experience in virtual reality. (Photos: submitted)

Nov. 19, 2020

Nursing students at Seneca are using sophisticated virtual reality to practise medical scenarios, including emergency situations, to gain real-life clinical experience remotely.

The School of Nursing has partnered with Oxford Medical Simulation in the United Kingdom to deliver virtual reality and screen-based nursing training. Seneca is the first Canadian school to use the Oxford Medical Simulation platform, which offers fully immersive and interactive clinical scenarios on par with in-person training for students, doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.

“It’s enabling our students to think like nurses and develop their critical-thinking and clinical decision-making skills without risking lives,” said Sharon Cassar, Chair of the School of Nursing. “It’s going to revolutionize the delivery of clinical nursing education.”

Due to COVID-19, nursing students have not been able to complete clinical placements in hospitals. With Oxford Medical Simulation, they can engage in realistic patient scenarios, assess patients — actually manikins that simulate the human body — and receive personalized feedback on their performance. Students have unlimited opportunities to repeat a scenario and improve.

“Ninety per cent of nursing is in the brain, and this platform makes the brain think,” Ms. Cassar said. “I’ve been in nursing for 33 years and I call tell you the scenarios are challenging.”

Virtual reality headsets required for Oxford Medical Simulation will be made available to students when in-person classes resume on campus. Reviews so far show that the online platform is already as effective as in-person clinical placements.

The Oxford Medical Simulation platform
The Oxford Medical Simulation platform offers fully immersive and interactive clinical scenarios on par with in-person training for students, doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals. (Photo: Oxford Medical Simulation)

“This is the first time I’ve actually felt like a full-blown nurse,” said Victoria Ahmadi, a student in the Practical Nursing diploma program. “It’s 3D, and it looks very real. Each patient presents a different complaint. You have to know what to assess first and what questions to ask.”

Having previously completed a clinical placement in a hospital, Ms. Ahmadi says the simulations can offer a better learning experience to students by simulating emergency situations, ranging from allergic reactions and difficulty breathing, to morphine overdose, asthma and cardiac issues.

“We are studying to become nurses, and we are going to be coming into these situations one day,” she said. “At the hospital, you don’t get the same sort of experience during a placement. You assist patients with daily tasks, while taking and assessing their vital signs. You don’t get to have this kind of opportunity to experience when a patient is in an emergency state.”

In addition, the platform records each session, allowing students to watch what they did right and what they did wrong.

“The best thing about it is that we get to experience the scenarios in a safe environment in which the patient won’t get hurt,” Ms. Ahmadi said.