Can you imagine a world where to learn, you must put lives at risk?
Though it seems unfathomable now, this was the reality not too long ago. Before the 1960s, doctors and nurses in training had to practice on their patients, learning from their mistakes as they delivered care — mistakes that could put patients’ lives in danger. Over time, an increasing focus on patient safety spurred the development of physical simulation, practicing with manikins and actors. This allowed trainees to learn from their mistakes safely.
Despire this, the healthcare industry faces a problem — medical error is costing patients their lives, behind only cancer and cardiovascular disease. Despite a nearly $3 billion annual investment from Medicare towards direct graduate medical education (DGME), new resident doctors are responsible for 81% of malpractice claims. Fifty percent of entry-level nurses are involved in practice errors, while only a mere 23% of graduate nursing students feel prepared for practice. Essentially, students and healthcare professionals need more opportunities to build confidence and competence allowing them to perform at their best the moment they set foot on the clinical floor.
So how do we create more opportunities to practice in simulation, in a way that’s realistic, repeatable, and available whenever and wherever it’s needed?
Say hello to virtual reality! Here’s why VR is ideal for training clinically competent staff and improving patient care at every step.
1. Immersive, experiential learning
Experiential learning — learning through first-hand experience — plays a key role in creating capable healthcare professionals. Studies highlight it as a key process for developing self-awareness and compassion towards patients. The problem is that it’s hard to practice in traditional curriculums and training programs.
Without frequent, hands-on practice, staff competence — and confidence in their abilities — quickly deteriorates. VR helps to bridge the gap, providing accessible, on-demand experiential learning.
VR technology is perfect for experiential learning. It immerses users, convincing the brain into believing the experience is real. When a user slips on the HMD (head-mounted device), they can treat virtual patients as they would in real life. No matter the stage of a healthcare professional’s career, virtual reality can deliver experiences that ‘feel real’ and become integral to healthcare education and training.
“It makes me feel like I am dealing with real patients. However, I am not afraid of making mistakes and this has increased my confidence and practical skills.”
— OMS User
Experiential learning enables users to carry their training into the real world long after a simulation ends. This means healthcare workers are more equipped and confident to deal with any obstacle they face. In virtual reality, the benefits of experiential learning are remarkable. Research shows VR sim not only improves performance across medical professions — it also significantly decreases the chance of fatal errors.
At OMS, we authentically replicate real-world clinical experiences, allowing users to get the most out of their learning. Our AI-driven scenarios are dynamic and adaptive, meaning patients deteriorate if users don’t provide appropriate (and timely) treatment. Learners can prepare for the realities of patient care while honing their ability to recognize symptoms.
2. Train anywhere, any time
VR provides true scalability. It’s up to 20 times cheaper than manikin-based training, requires no patient or faculty involvement, and the hardware is easily storable when not in use.
Once it’s up and running, VR sim software is available to use 24/7. Learners are free to tailor their learning around their schedules, which is a bonus for busy practitioners with limited time to spare.
Standardized VR simulation scenarios provide an infinitely repeatable learning experience. Scenarios unfold differently depending on how a learner engages with a patient, with no risk to the patient no matter what the learner does. This means that learners can make mistakes safely and without anxiety until they are confident in a scenario.
“The ability for our nursing students to practice standardized, realistic clinical scenarios whenever they need is game-changing.”
— Executive Director of Simulation, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Developing this confidence is crucial to creating independent, capable healthcare staff. A 2020 report highlighted poor clinical decision-making as a factor in 65% of entry-level nurse errors; it also found that just one-third of graduate nurses are confident in their practice.
The good news is that standardized VR simulation scenarios can significantly improve knowledge retention and self-confidence in learners, which diminishes the likelihood of medical error.
3. Personalized learning for every user
Learners, trainees, and experienced professionals all have different requirements and expectations of training. Unfortunately, traditional methods make it difficult to create programs that acknowledge each learner’s individual needs.
Here’s some good news — no matter the career stage or specialization, virtual reality can train healthcare professionals in ways that work best for them.
With its combination of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic input, VR can accommodate a range of individual learning styles. On-demand access also means users can choose where and when they prefer to practice providing even more customized learning.
With VR sim, users have an extensive library of scenarios at their fingertips. A wide range of scenarios gives learners the choice to focus on specific areas of expertise or refine their general patient care. If users vary in confidence across topics, that’s not an issue. They can repeat scenarios as little or as often as they need before they put their skills into practice.
Looking to understand the strengths and weaknesses of specific users? Leading VR sim platforms, such as OMS, offer comprehensive analytics tracking for this reason. It’s ideal for monitoring participant performance and tailoring learning based on concrete results. It also allows users to monitor their progress, track improvement and adjust training accordingly. Detailed feedback, tailored to each user’s performance, helps students and professionals alike to improve and maintain the skills they need for exceptional patient care.
The Bottom Line
VR provides exceptional learning experiences — It’s immersive, scalable, and can be tailored to an individual’s needs. Virtual reality even enables collaboration, with research suggesting that team-based VR training, such as OMS Interprofessional, could reduce patient mortality by up to 15 percent!
Optimizing training is essential to delivering the next generation of healthcare professionals — and for keeping our current practitioners clinically competent. With medical errors costing up to $20 billion a year, VR simulation can bridge the gap to hone skills, encourage staff retention, and make a remarkable difference to patient outcomes.