WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF VIRTUAL REALITY SIMULATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN USED IN NURSING EDUCATION

Virtual and augmented reality simulations are increasingly being used in nursing education programs to expose students to high-risk, low-frequency clinical scenarios in a safe environment. Some key VR simulations that have been developed and integrated into nursing curriculums include:

Labor and delivery simulations: These VR simulations allow nursing students to experience the process of labor and delivery from beginning to end without risk to real patients. Students can practice skills like fetal heart rate monitoring, assisting with delivery, and newborn care on virtual patients. Some programs have developed VR simulations that allow students to experience complications during delivery like shoulder dystocia, bleeding, or emergency c-sections to prepare them for handling high-pressure situations.

Post-operative patient care simulations: Virtual patients have been created to simulate caring for patients in the immediate postoperative period, allowing students to practice vital sign monitoring, pain management, ambulation assistance, and identifying/responding to post-op complications. Some simulations include augmented reality so students receive real-time feedback as they assess the virtual patient’s condition and intervene accordingly. Common post-op scenarios modeled include bowel resection, total joint replacement, and vascular surgery.

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Pediatric simulations: Nursing students can practice pediatric-specific skills like infant examinations, pediatric medication administration, identifying abnormalities, and caring for children with conditions like asthma exacerbations through virtual pediatric patients of varying ages. Simulations of caring for hospitalized children integrate psychosocial components so students learn to communicate effectively with young patients and distressed family members.

Mental health simulations: To allow exposure to mental health conditions in a safe environment, VR simulations have been developed depicting interactions with virtual patients experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and more. Students can practice therapeutic communication skills, behavioral de-escalation techniques, and monitoring for signs of deterioration through multiple virtual scenarios.

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Acute neurological events: Simulations have been created to depict patients experiencing medical emergencies like stroke, seizure, intracranial hemorrhage, and meningitis. Students gain experience in rapidly assessing neurological status, intervening to stabilize airway/breathing/circulation, implementing acute treatments, and monitoring for complications and treatment responses of these types of events.

Palliative & end-of-life care simulations: Through immersive VR scenarios, nursing students can care for virtual patients at various stages of terminal illness while addressing complex psychosocial and spiritual needs of patients and families. Students practice skills like pain and symptom assessment, implementing comfort measures, engaging in difficult conversations about prognosis/goals of care, and providing bereavement support.

Inter-professional simulations: Some nursing programs have integrated VR into interprofessional education activities in partnership with other health programs. Complex virtual patient cases requiring combined nursing, physician, respiratory therapy, and pharmacist interventions provide an opportunity for different disciplines to communicate, problem-solve, and coordinate care together in a realistic simulated setting. This helps students begin practicing essential team-based care competencies early in their education.

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Preliminary research evaluating the impact of VR simulation use in nursing education programs shows it provides a very effective experiential learning approach compared to traditional clinical experiences alone. Students report high satisfaction with VR and feeling better prepared for real clinical situations after virtual exposure. Educators also appreciate the ability for all students to participate in rare/irregular patient cases that may not occur frequently in clinical settings. As VR technology continues advancing, its applications in healthcare training will likely expand further to strengthen competency-based, experiential learning for nursing students.

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