VR as a Training Tool – Even in Nurse Education
Virtual reality technology has quickly been adapted to serve multiple functions throughout multiple industries. From entertainment – VR rollercoasters and video games – to the construction industry – McCarthy Building’s “BIM Cave” – VR is the limitless tool of innovation. It has even become popular as a training tool because it’s safer and more cost-effective than traditional techniques.
For example, instead of training pilots in dangerous real-life scenarios that are cost-heavy and require a high amount space and equipment, aviation schools and airlines are utilizing VR. Simulators such as the BISimulator are adaptable to a variety of situations, cost-effective, and safe. The technology is capable of ceaselessly producing simulations that mimic real-life situations, so pilots can comprehensively train for any situation previously difficult to practice (extreme conditions, no-win scenarios, etc.).
Due to its success as an educational/training tool, more industries are adopting VR as a solution to cost, safety, and quality challenges. Healthcare, for instance, has been leveraging the benefits of VR for treatments, procedures, patient-care, and healthcare professional education.
VR – The Answer to the Nursing Shortage and Healthcare Availability?
Healthcare is facing issues on all sides:
1-The number of people in need of healthcare keeps increasing. By 2050, the senior citizen population will reach 88.5 million, and people over 50 are more likely to need healthcare.
2- The number of nurses is dwindling. By 2022, 500,000 nurses are expected to retire because they are part of the Baby Boomer era. With this decrease, many nurses will have the opportunity to advance their careers with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to work in positions such as a Chief Nursing Officer or a Nurse Practitioner.
3- The number of Americans without access to healthcare is substantial. 58 million Americans live in geographic locations with sparse primary care facilities or professionals.
4- The number of nursing school graduates aren’t keeping up with demand. There aren’t enough nurse educators to teach nursing students, creating a bottleneck at the education level.
The solution is obvious: More nurses and nurse educators. Realizing the solution, however, has not been easy. How does the industry increase nursing numbers without compromising quality? Virtual reality.
Using VR to Improve Healthcare Education
VR technology allows:
1-Surgeons to practice surgery without the need for multiple cadavers
2-Doctors to practice telepractice and diagnose complex issues from far distances
3-Patients to be educated and relieved regarding their treatments and surgeries
4- Nurses to be trained in “serious game” scenarios that recreate hospitals, patients, and situations that they will later manage
Sensory gloves and high-definition graphics along with seamless virtual movement have made it possible for nurses to develop muscle memory for sensitive medical procedures. Catheter insertion, environment sterilization, team building exercises, and other practices that are time-consuming to teach and learn can now be recreated in virtual environments that can be repeated as necessary. The transition from school to healthcare facility can be jarring, but VR tools can help prepare nurses, so they hit the ground running.
The VR tools help nurses learn, and nurse educators teach a wider pool of people. Where they originally had to walk through a practice with each student in a controlled environment, they can now tailor a VR simulation so others practice while they spend one-on-one time perfecting techniques. This, in turn, pushes more nurses into the workforce which relieves the current employment stresses. Experienced nurses then have time to continue their education and become a nurse educator and/or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
More nurse educators further help produce more nurses, and APRNs can operate nurse-managed health centers in more rural areas of America. Additionally, APRNs can use VR for effective telepractice in areas that are in need of primary care. In summary, the advent implementation of VR as an educational tool in healthcare could be the solution to the current challenges America’s system is facing.