Simulation has become the cornerstone of healthcare education and training. It is an effective and resource-intensive technology that has transformed medical education. Institutions experience increased pressure regarding standardization and budget, requiring them to implement novel strategies to streamline learning processes.
Virtual reality (VR) is an advanced method of simulation delivery, offering a wide range of benefits to medical educators and learners. It is a cost-effective, standardized, and repeatable, and on-demand technology within the medical sector. A growing body of research evidence supports virtual reality simulations in healthcare. Read on!
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is the use of software used by companies and individuals to create a simulated environment. VR users usually put on head-mounted display devices to experience the simulation, making it an innovative and different approach than traditional user interfaces.
In addition, virtual reality offers unique power than any other technology, making users believe they are in a completely different environment. The purpose is to help users learn from numerous experiences as they would do in real-life situations.
People would previously refer to screen-based learning as virtual reality in healthcare literature. However, research shows that VR’s value comes from immersion users’ sense of presence.
In simple words, it means the user’s feeling of being there. VR is an immersive technology that allows learners to wear headsets and experience a completely new environment as the device blocks the real world – this means any physical can be instantly transformed into the learning environment of choice.
360-video is a relatively new filming method that allows the user to create a complete picture of the scenario or environment. The user uses a camera to record 360-video and films in every direction simultaneously. Learners use VR headsets to view such recordings, allowing them to feel like they are in the film.
Bear in mind that this technology or method is a sophisticated medium for educators, allowing them to provide a non-interactive experience of the environment to learners. For example, medical students can use 360-video to immerse patients in virtual worlds. The purpose is to distract them during painful surgeries, such as open-back discectomy.
However, it is a passive experience, meaning students can’t interact in real-time as the video is merely a linear recording. Because users record the video from one location, they can’t move realistically. Consequently, the disconnection between the real world and the user’s movement can cause a sense of nausea.
Unlike 360-video, interactive VR is an entirely dynamic, immersive, adaptive, and interactive world. For example, if you imagine being in a high-graphics console or computer game, you can sense what VR feels like.
Likewise, in the healthcare context, this includes virtual wards, interactive patients, medical staff, colleagues, and relatives, allowing interaction similar to the real world. For instance, a patient has arrived in the emergency room (ER), and the medical student wears the headset and is present in the virtual ER.
That way, the student can move and interact with the virtual environment and patient similar to the real world. For example, a medical student can take the history, investigate, examine, diagnose, and treat the patient.
In the virtual simulation, the patient can become aggressive, agitated, confused, and physically unwell, requiring the learner to engage in emotional support and feel the hustle and bustle of the emergency room.
In such a situation, the learner will experience lifelike characters in real-time and experience the stress of working in the ER. Interactive VR aims to create stressful scenarios for medical students, allowing them to make critical and clinically reasonable decisions. That way, they can replication human-to-human interaction through simulations in the real world.
Benefits of VR in Healthcare Education
Research shows that VR offers a wide range of benefits for medical students, faculties, and institutions. Students can use VR technology to streamline clinical experiences. Here are some of the advantages of Virtual reality.
Broad and Flexible Availability
Because VR headsets are commercially available, students can set up or configure them quickly and safely. Many VR devices or systems work accurately without requiring faculty or operators.
Learners can go to the system and participate in simulations because VR systems are not confined to specific health centers or high setup budgets. These systems are widely available, allowing for broader and flexible access.
VR offers Repeatable Scenarios
Because VR system offers flexible access, healthcare institutions can integrate simulation-based education into learning spaces. Simulation through VR can become a frequent occurrence in day-to-day learning activities.
More importantly, virtual reality scenarios are repeatable, allowing medical students to make mistakes safely and learn from experiences to improve performance. Remember, this is one of the most core features of successful medical simulations.
On the other hand, students can’t accomplish this goal with the real world scenario. So, this is what repeatable scenarios can offer students.
Virtual reality allows cost-effective simulations because it uses fewer resources. So, this is another advantage from an institutional standpoint. Bear in mind that the physical simulation’s costs vary from institution to institution.
Therefore, it is pretty challenging to define the cost of physical simulation. On the other hand, the cost of VR system in medical education and simulation are often easy to access. VR simulation costs depend on the hardware and software integrated into the system.
For instance, High-end VR hardware can cost between $3,000 and $5,000 for a setup. Software costs depend on the product’s quality, but on average, it is under one-tenth of the physical simulation cost.
Virtual reality is already transforming healthcare education, allowing learners to apply their knowledge to real-life-like scenarios, commit safe mistakes, and learn from their experiences. VR technology in the medical and healthcare field focuses on enhancing competencies while focusing on autonomous and blended learning.
Many healthcare and medical colleges make substantial efforts to implement and integrate VR within curricula to streamline learning processes. Multiple learners can participate in VR lifelike simulations without any geographical boundaries or restrictions. That way, institutions can change how they conduct inter-professional medical education.