IUPUC Using VR to Train Nursing Students

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(from left) Carrie Shaver and Bill Fields recently appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. (IIB Photo/Joe Ulery) (from left) Carrie Shaver and Bill Fields recently appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. (IIB Photo/Joe Ulery)

Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus is using technology to help students in its school of nursing. The IUPUC Simulation Center uses virtual reality simulation for students to train in a variety of scenarios such as neo-natal abstinence syndrome, which involves infants born to a mother addicted to drugs. Director of Regional Healthcare Pipeline Carrie Shaver says virtual reality simulation provides a safe learning environment outside of the clinical setting.

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Shaver said the technology is timely, given the scope of the opioid crisis in Indiana.

"For our junior nursing students, for example, they have the opportunity to interact with an opioid-addicted mother who has a newborn and it's about providing care in a respectful way and also being in a very stressful environment," Shaver said. "The babies have a very high-pitched, loud shrill that can be heartbreaking and difficult to listen to. So, having that experience first and learning how to communicate with respect and to develop and understand the patient and develop that empathy is really important."

Shaver says simulation has been integrated in all clinical courses and VR is generally used for "progressive simulations." She says students start in a skills center, learning foundational tasks and practice with the VR. After that, they move onto a different type of simulation where they engage with an actor pretending to be a patient.

Bill Fields, director of IT technical services at IUPUC, says adding VR to the simulation center as a cost-saving measure.

"IUPUC was using mannequins to do simulation and those are very pricey, and very, very hard to maintain once their life cycle ends, so it becomes really cost-ineffective to maintain those," said Fields. "So we were looking for a way to not only keep the cost down, but yet really provide a simulation environment for the students that allows them to learn in a safe environment."

Fields says they are always looking at new ways to use the technology to keep ahead of the curve.

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