AdventHealth University (AHU) is using virtual reality technology to keep nursing students learning during the pandemic.
University officials said it is one of the first universities in Central Florida to use virtual reality technology in healthcare education and the coronavirus pandemic sped up its roll-out.
Brandon Baker, director of the Immersive Technologies Lab at AHU, said when COVID hit, students were unable to gather in large groups and had limited clinical time in the hospital.
“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.”
AHU senior nursing student Jennifer Salazar is using VR technology to learn how to use an automated medication dispensing system. It’s equipment she normally would not get the chance to use until her first day of work as a nurse.
She said using VR technology to learn the equipment helps build confidence so she can focus on nursing and patients.
“It 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,” Salazar said.
Associate Nursing Professor Dr. Chris Lorentz said AHU started using VR tech on a limited basis in 2015, but the pandemic sped up its roll-out to students. Now, more than 100 nursing students have used VR tech to learn critical skills.
“My students from last semester, because of COVID, had never been in the hospital, so their first exposure to a medication room… was through VR,” said Dr. Lorentz.
Students are also able to take home VR headsets and do virtual lab experiences together. Baker said, “It gives them kind of a preliminary hands-on experience, a place to practice safely in kind of a high-stakes kind of situation that they would be in.”
Baker said there might be a place for VR in hospitals. At the beginning of the pandemic, the university created VR technology to train hospital nurses on ventilator protocols. Baker said while it was never used, they pivoted the technology to use for the virtual lab experiences for student nurses.
He said there is still a chance the technology could be deployed in hospitals. “We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. We don’t know what will happen and there’s always a need for training in different modalities
Dr. Lorentz said while most people know virtual technology for gaming, he expects to see it used more in healthcare.
“It’s a wide open field for us to explore… it’s something that AdventHealth University and AdventHealth in general are definitely pushing forward in the future.”