22 Apr 2020

Nurses and doctors use VR to learn coronavirus patient treatment

CNN Business
Nurses and doctors use VR to learn coronavirus patient treatment

In one of Oxford's simulations, a nurse, in the form of an avatar, hands the user a file with a brief history of the virtual patient. The doctor or nurse is then required to assess his or her symptoms, making decisions in real time based on how the patient reacts; they may need to check the stomach or the lungs or make fast judgment calls if someone vomits up blood, has a seizure or gasps for air. Oxford's scenarios aren't necessarily COVID-19-specific, but represent what any medical professional may encounter in an emergency.

"The concept is so doctors and nurses can make mistakes in virtual reality and learn from them," said founder and chief medical officer Dr. Jack Pottle, who launched the service in 2018. "Some physicians are coming directly from medical school and thrown into practice, or are retired doctors and nurses not necessarily trained in the areas needed for safely treating people with COVID-19. These simulations help get them up to speed and feel more confident about it, too."

Even before the pandemic, schools were using these tools to train the next generation of medical professionals. Some schools, including New York University, Middlesex University and University of New England, have adopted similar programs with nursing students to get them ready for graduation.

"Before we closed for the semester, we had labs open with eight Oculus Rift headset setups," said Dawne-Marie Dunbar, the director of the Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center at the University of New England. Students are still required to remotely complete Oxford's simulations through a mobile phone or tablet after they learn 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," she 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."

Early clinical research on VR training has determined the tools could be effective in decreasing injury, speeding up processes and improving overall results. 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."

However, it added that the technology should be used as a complementary tool to traditional methods and more research should be done on the topic.

"We've had an overwhelmingly positive response to the training," said Carol DerSarkissian, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, which is currently using Oxford's platform to train students. "Part of becoming a good doctor is the experience of taking care of similar cases over and over and learning from each one. [The simulations] help with new skills and build their confidence before entering the frontlines -- and allow for that opportunity without putting anyone at risk."

Source: CNN Business

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