Middlesex University has invested in pioneering new technology which allows student nurses to work in a virtual hospital ward.
The university has purchased five virtual reality (VR) headsets from Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) which can recreate scenarios in a digital environment that nurses would face in real life.
This is the latest investment in virtual reality equipment by the MDX School of Health and Education after the opening of a state-of-the-art four-bed simulation ward last year.
Currently, third year adult nursing and paediatric postgraduates are using the virtual wards with plans to make the learning available to midwifery students later in 2020.
“We learn best when learning from experience and our system will allow users at Middlesex to do just that - without putting patient’s lives at risk." Dr Jack Pottle, chief Medical Officer of Oxford Medical Simulation.
While wearing the Oculus Rift VR headsets, students are transported to a fully interactive and immersive hospital ward where they must ask patients questions to diagnose their condition and decide on the best treatment while making sure they follow certain procedures.
The student nurses can develop confidence in tackling 20 different scenarios - which are simulated through the headsets - including patients who have difficulty breathing, diabetes, COPD and severe allergies.
Afterwards, the students can get personalised feedback and grades using a detailed analytics engine to help them evaluate their efforts with tutors.
OMS said the analytics engine behind the interactive experience "delivers powerful learning insights”.
Fiona Suthers, Head of the Clinical Skills Department, said: “Any simulation is only as good as the way it is debriefed so you have to use a very definitive evaluation tool led by experienced people which is embedded in the curriculum effectively.
“Students can obtain the feedback, see how well they have performed and discuss the results after their own internal reflection, so learning can emerge through the actions that are right or wrong.
“This technology is allowing students to make mistakes without repercussions.
“The students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making because they can make mistakes safely and take more risks – which enhances their learning process.”
Crucially, one of the simulations include a patient with Sepsis and the body’s physiological response to infection and clinical presentation.
As many as 52,000 deaths a year are related to Sepsis and around 25,000 hospital admissions due to sepsis occur in children, according to the charity Sepsis Trust.
Sarah Chitongo, a Midwifery Educator at Middlesex University, said: “Sepsis is one of the key scenarios because it is a time critical condition.
“You have an hour to ensure that the diagnosis is made and appropriate prescribed antibiotics are administered as every hour delay increases the patients mortality rate by 8%.
“Sepsis destroys internal vital organs.
“One of the first clinical indications is looking at the patients clinical presentation.
“Sepsis patients will display visible signs and this technology recreates the typical indicators such as patches of discoloured skin, shivers, sleepy or difficult to rouse and shortness of breath.”
Middlesex joins more than 30 institutions in the UK using the OMS VR medical training platform and is one of the first universities to roll out the technology for nursing students.
OMS' technology, which is used in clinical training for students, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, focuses on decision-making under pressure, crisis resource management, team interaction and patient engagement.
Dr Jack Pottle, chief Medical Officer of Oxford Medical Simulation, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Middlesex University to take nurse training to new heights.
“We have developed OMS because we believe that training healthcare professionals in a flexible, zero-risk environment will transform patient care around the world.
“We learn best when learning from experience and our system will allow users at Middlesex to do just that - without putting patient’s lives at risk."
Last year Middlesex unveiled a simulation ward which includes an augmented reality pregnant woman which can simulate normal delivery and emergency scenarios.
It also features an animatronic neo-natal baby which simulates breathing and responds to treatment and a torso which seen through 3D enables students to better understand ultrasound scans and human anatomy.