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Ten Tips for Using VR in Clinical Training
Ten Tips for Using VR in Clinical Training
Thoughtful VR integration considering learner needs, debriefing approaches, and stakeholder collaboration is key

I recently read this excellent paper in Clinical Simulation in Nursing by M. Verkuyl and L. Atack, which collates their literature findings on best practices for integrating virtual simulations within healthcare curriculums. The insights therein would be of great utility to these reading this i3 Simulations blog, so I have summarised and abridged their tips below! For more information for each tip, I can only encourage you to read the full research paper.

1. Do Not Let Simulation Drive the Curriculum

Virtual reality (VR) should be a core part of medical education, not an add-on: successfully integrating VR starts with identifying training gaps. Educators must map where simulation would most effectively build clinical skills aligned to key curriculum outcomes.

The possibilities are vast – from technical task trainers to simulated patients to full replications of care environments. With strategic design, VR can transform learning through immersive experiences that prepare clinicians for real-world practice. Rather than a bonus feature, it should be a central modality woven throughout the medical training curriculum.

2. Ensure the Right VR for the Right Time and Learner

Effective integration of virtual reality (VR) into medical education must keep the learner at the center. VR adoption works best following a “simple-to-complex” approach – ensure students have the foundation before layering in technology-enabled problem-solving. Educators should map simulations to learner level, matching immersive modalities to the knowledge and skills of novices versus experienced trainees.

For example, an overwhelmed student may struggle with intense surgical recreations without realistic progressions. Consider too how simulations fit with curriculum flow and pacing. Poorly timed overloads risk disengagement. Instead, synchronize virtual scenarios with course competencies, interactively building clinical judgment without overwhelming volume. By considering learner variance in age, discipline, access, and aptitude, medical schools can make a powerful pedagogical paradigm even stronger. VR that enables rather than inhibits gains through learner-focused design.

3. Prepare Faculty/Facilitators and Support Champions

High-quality virtual reality (VR) learning requires skilled facilitation. Effective facilitators prepare trainees, guide them through simulations meaningfully, and debrief insights afterward. With emerging development opportunities like workshops, journal articles, and e-textbooks, educators can gain the debriefing abilities to maximize VR’s value. They need time to fully explore various decision paths and outcomes when working through simulations themselves.

With strong facilitation, VR creates immersive experiences that transform clinical skills. But administrative leadership is key—support from above enables thorough integration needed for VR to meet its pedagogical potential. Facilitation and leadership must align to unlock the promise of this technology-enabled training paradigm.

4. Embrace a New Way of Teaching

Effective virtual reality (VR) integration requires educator self-reflection. Teachers should consider their philosophy, style, and desired learner outcomes when exploring immersive options. For classroom or clinical courses, VR enables mistakes and choice – facilitating deeper learning through experience. The educator role also shifts from content expert to learning facilitator.

Rather than imparting knowledge, teachers guide self-driven exploration, discovery, and growth. With an understanding of their own approach, educators can align simulations to their teaching and learner needs. Reflective design and facilitation unlocks VR’s experiential potential across medical curricula. The technology provides the experience; reflective teachers provide the meaning.

5. Consider VR for Learner Assessment

Virtual reality (VR) lends itself to both formative and summative evaluation. For the former, debriefing and analytics reveal knowledge gaps to address through teaching. For the latter, graded assessment, learners need early and regular exposure to acclimate to the technology and build competency. With high-stakes testing, set clear expectations beforehand so students understand how simulations connect to outcomes. Thoughtful implementation that scaffolds immersive learning environments allows VR assessment to motivate as well as evaluate growth. Aligned to course objectives, simulations measure development rather than dictate destinations.

6. Pre-Brief the VR Experience

A pre-brief is a critical pedagogical step before any virtual simulation to set the stage for learning. The pre-brief should overview learning outcomes, expectations, duration, and technology orientation. It also establishes psychological safety by advising learners that mistakes while learning will not have consequences and warning of any sensitive content. Ultimately, the pre-brief enhances the virtual simulation experience.

7. Debrief the VR Experience

The literature provides strong evidence that a well-conducted debriefing process, using an established framework, promotes learning. Facilitators should choose the most appropriate debriefing approach based on the simulation content, learner level, and outcomes. Options include immediate or intermittent debriefs during the simulation, self-debriefing, group debriefing, or a combination. Synchronous or asynchronous approaches can also be used. To foster psychological safety, explain the process, maintain confidentiality, and provide options to learners. The learner and simulation topic should ultimately guide the debriefing format.

8. Ensure the Technology Runs Smoothly

Studies show that technical problems rapidly decrease learner engagement. Facilitators should explore the virtual simulation beforehand to anticipate issues. Both facilitators and learners need information on obtaining technological assistance if needed. When technical glitches occur, learner interest and learning drops off. By preparing ahead of time, facilitators can minimise frustrations.

9. Collaborate

Effective virtual simulation integration requires collaboration across stakeholders. Simulationists ensure quality pedagogy. Faculty align content and timing. Technologists provide needed computer support. Administrators support costs and faculty development. By leveraging this team’s unique expertise, virtual simulations can be effectively embedded in the curriculum.

10. Plan for Sustainability

Evaluating virtual simulation adoption requires considering cost-efficacy, advantages over in-person simulation, and institutional policy. Existing high quality options can be more cost-effective than developing in-house. Virtual simulation’s flexibility and accessibility contrast with in-person simulation’s space demands. But sustainability requires administrator support for simulation training and expertise. By leveraging virtual simulation’s benefits while evaluating costs, healthcare programs can embed it in the curriculum.

 


 

Virtual reality simulation offers immense potential to revolutionise healthcare education. As discussed here, thoughtful integration considering learner needs, debriefing approaches, and stakeholder collaboration is key. If you believe VR simulation could benefit your healthcare organisation, please reach out to the experts at i3 Simulations. Our team brings decades of simulation expertise paired with cutting edge immersive technology. We welcome the opportunity to explore how targeted VR experiences could transform learning outcomes for your institution. Please contact us today to start a conversation about the future of healthcare training.

TJ

Author

TJ Matthews

Research Manager at i3 Simulations, an immersive solutions company specialising in healthcare training using cutting-edge XR technology.

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