UNE nursing program’s use of virtual reality simulators featured on CNN

Virtual reality programs in UNE's simulation lab featured on CNN

CNN recently reached out to the University of New England to learn how its nursing program is using virtual reality (VR) to train students.

Hospitals facing shortages of health professionals to treat COVID-19 patients are turning to VR simulators to train doctors and nurses with expertise in other areas.

Those doctors and nurses are undergoing coronavirus-specific training, including instruction on how to correctly put on and take off protective equipment and how to utilize ventilators that are typically only used by critical care staff. They are also learning new guidelines around concepts such as basic CPR and life support.

Even before the pandemic, schools were using VR tools to train the next generation of medical professionals.

UNE was the first in the country to use the Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) state-of-the-art virtual reality program, giving nursing students realistic experiences treating patients.

Dawne-Marie Dunbar, director of the Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center, recently discussed UNE's use of VR with CNN.

"Before we closed for the semester, we had labs open with eight Oculus Rift headset setups," Dunbar told CNN.

Students are now working remotely to complete Oxford's simulations through a mobile phone or tablet after learning about certain conditions in virtual class.

"We prefer to have them in headsets because it's more immersive, but many are accessing the program on a mobile device right now," Dunbar said. "It's still a key way to teach skills they will have to perform often or give them exposure to high-risk conditions that need to be managed correctly."

According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Advances in Medical Education & Profession, people trained by VR had "lower performance errors and higher accuracy compared to those trained by conventional approaches."

UNE is the only institution in New England using the OMS program right now.