The COVID-19 epidemic has had an impact on in-person instruction and clinical placements in medical institutions, even though nursing education mostly consists of classroom instruction and clinical experience. Accordingly, a research team under the direction of Dr. Justina LIU, Associate Professor of School of Nursing, and Dr. Kitty CHAN, Senior Teaching Fellow of the same school, has created a virtual learning system called “Virtual Hospital” that uses virtual reality (VR) technology to offer an innovative experiential approach to nursing education.
The first virtual learning system of its kind in Hong Kong, Virtual Medical replicates the complicated and chaotic environment of a real hospital ward. The system offers five scenarios, including “Clinical Practicum Orientation,” “Challenges of Delirium,” “Managing Multitasks,” “Prevention of Errors,” and “Potential Heart Attack,” with a total of 11 games.
Students find it challenging to predict the tasks they will be handled because there are more than 1,200 combinations of random situations and multiple choices, and they must respond quickly to multitasking situations and make the right nursing decisions by evaluating a patient’s condition and interpreting their medical records.
It was highlighted that the bulk of current VR learning systems follow a single patient management setting and are skill- and procedure-focused. Students are required to manage many beds and care for multiple patients simultaneously in the PolyU-developed Virtual Hospital. The student’s capacity to use their knowledge and prioritize nursing responsibilities amid numerous interruptions within a constrained period are tested by unforeseen incidents and clinical difficulties.
Students can develop the soft skills necessary for their clinical practice through VR experiential learning, including situation awareness, adaptability to handle emergencies, as well as decision-making and communication abilities.
In Virtual Hospital, users’ interactions with the virtual patients can be recorded and reviewed, and their decisions and reactions can be broadcast on a TV monitor for group involvement. The student can evaluate their decisions and judgments by responding to multiple-choice questions. Additionally, the system’s automated assessment feature and game data make it convenient for teachers to monitor students’ progress and measure learning outcomes.
Over 450 nursing students have benefited from Virtual Hospital since its debut in January 2022. Students are given a collaborative case-based learning opportunity through Virtual Hospital. It is intended that Virtual Hospital will aid students in developing the skills required for clinical nursing, most especially in lowering errors in actual clinical settings, in addition to current practice on patient simulators.
The team is delighted with the good student comments on the virtual learning system and anticipates implementing interprofessional and multidisciplinary components as well as introducing the system to additional nursing institutes in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area in the future.
A Year 3 nursing student from PolyU School of Nursing expressed her admiration for the Virtual Hospital’s attention to environmental aspects. Because the system allows each student to handle nursing difficulties on their own, which better prepares them for the intense work situations experienced by nurses in the real clinical environment, she felt the VR learning experience boosted her confidence in clinical practice.