Investment in immersive technology is just the tonic for UCLan’s medical students

17 May 2022

Medical students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will soon be diagnosing heart attacks, treating sepsis and examining the respiratory system from the comfort of the classroom thanks to an investment in state-of-the-art virtual reality software.

UCLan medical students using the new VR techology at the Burnley campus 1

The technology, developed by UK-based Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS), allows students studying within UCLan’s School of Medicine to practise treating acutely unwell patients in a simulated, virtual environment without risking patients’ lives.

A successful bid by the University to Health Education England (HEE) means the resulting £315,000 funding has enabled the University to purchase advanced Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets in addition to the licencing of special clinical simulation software provided by OMS.

The software gives students unlimited access to a clinical simulation library, including learning scenarios such as sepsis, diabetes, heart attack, pancreatitis and many more.

On entering the interactive virtual scenario students are greeted by a virtual nursing assistant and their patient. Learners can question, comfort, examine and treat the patient as they would in real life. Every action the learner takes including diagnosis is recorded, pinpointing areas for improvement and personalised feedback.

UCLan’s Dr Abhi Jones, Clinical Lead for Interprofessional Education, explained that simulation – where trainees practise medical emergencies as they would in real life – is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways of training healthcare professionals. “Simulation is a vital part of medical education,” Dr Jones said. “Traditionally small numbers of students practise with plastic mannequins in mocked-up hospital wards. Now, with our new immersive simulated environment, it means up to 100 students could be training on multiple simulations simultaneously and as often as they like.

“It’s important for us to remain at the forefront of innovative learning opportunities available to students. With an emphasis on honing effective decision making, critical thinking and clinical reasoning, this exciting new development will complement and reinforce our traditional teaching methods.”

Dr Jack Pottle, Chief Medical Officer, Oxford Medical Simulation NHS Innovation Fellow, said: “OMS exists to help bridge the gap between healthcare education and practice. We wanted to allow learners to practise as often as they like in virtual scenarios, to learn from their mistakes, and ultimately provide the best possible care to their patients.“In working with the wonderful team at UCLan we are able to realise that vision. Their proactive and forward-thinking approach is a perfect example of how to implement virtual reality in medical education – we look forward to what the future brings!”

The University plans to use the new virtual reality software for medical students based at its Preston, Burnley and Westlakes campuses with the provision to extend usage of the Oculus headsets through immersive placement experience, virtual tours and disability simulators.

A video showing the new medical simulation software can be seen here.

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