The traditional methods of medical simulation training faced a significant challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, restricting in-person learning opportunities. Dr. Emily Tarver, associate professor of emergency medicine and co-director of virtual reality and simulation at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, recognised the need for a more accessible simulation training method: “The simulation here is incredible,” she said, “But there is so much demand for it. I wanted to create more access to simulation training.”
Driven by the ambition to transform medical education, Dr. Tarver approached i3 Simulations to create SimGym. It’s a virtual reality simulation tool that allows for complete customization of a 3D clinic or ER room, providing a hands-on learning environment for any case scenario. With this technology, students can tailor their learning experience to their needs, whether they are treating a single patient or managing mass casualties.
The impact of SimGym on medical training has been remarkable. As Dr. Alaina Herrington, founding director of the Mississippi Academy for Simulation Training, observed, “Sharing this virtual reality resource will enable Mississippi educators who participated in MAST to bridge between traditional classroom learning to real-life clinical experience.” The tool’s versatility has been lauded by students as well, with medical student Chappel Pettit describing it as a potential game-changer in medicine: “It could become a very important learning tool for students, replacing more traditional ways of learning like PowerPoint slides, or used as a supplementary tool.”
Working with i3 Simulations
The collaboration with i3 Simulations was instrumental in bringing SimGym to life. Tom Dolby, CTO of i3 Simulations, regarded the project as ambitious and powerful, with a vision for its growth: “We have a lot of ideas to keep growing it.” i3 Simulations’ background in healthcare software development was pivotal in shaping SimGym’s customizable and immersive VR interface, from the diverse patient types to the adjustable medical equipment and room settings.
Dr. Tarver aims to integrate SimGym into the emergency medicine curriculum, saying, “Except when I’m on shift, the best way for me to pass on my emergency medicine knowledge is SimGym.” Future plans for SimGym include cloud processing for broader device compatibility, including smartphones, and incorporating ChatGPT integration for simulated conversations between caregivers and patients.
In the words of Dr. Tarver, “There is no limitation to what we can do or what we can build. The only limitation is us – figuring out how it best meets our needs.”