Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has introduced virtual reality (VR) training to enhance learning among its doctors and medical students.
In collaboration with Virti, Trust has introduced VR headsets and handheld controllers where users can immerse themselves in virtual operations to understand the skills they need to develop for real-life situations.
Technology means that students and juvenile physicians have the opportunity to learn how to explain diagnoses and treatment plans, manage difficult situations, and relate to patients and their families.
This type of learning is designed to complement, not replace, real-life training. One of the key benefits is that it eliminates the need for students to attend the hospital, which has been vital during the pandemic. VR simulations can also be more impactful and memorable for students compared to traditional learning methods as they are scalable, repeatable and immersive.
Dr Alex Aquilina, ST3 registrar in trauma and orthopedics, said: “Last year I was awarded a Health Education England simulation scholarship to work with Virti to create immersive learning content. As part of this, I have been developing simulations of surgical procedures using 360 degree cameras.
“And more recently, we have been offering VR simulations of surgical procedures to trauma and orthopedic recorders throughout the Severn network as part of our weekly remote teaching, along with traditional conference-based presentations. Virtual simulations allow delivery to be delivered to participants by providing an overview of the entire surgical process, from equipment setup and prosthesis, to informing colleagues and locating the patient correctly. ”
Virtual reality generates better interactions with patients
The colorectal consultant of the trust, Richard Bamford, added: “The sky is really the limit with this type of technology. We are currently working with Virti on aspects related to human factors and the soft skills of things to gain a better understanding of how people interact with each other, including teamwork and leadership in a theatrical setting.
“We are seeing how we can follow a patient journey and what influences the decisions we make. It’s not just about our level of knowledge and skill, but also how we interact with our peers around us in the theater environment. An example of how this technology can work well is in teaching medical professionals how to better give bad news to families by improving good communication skills.
Confidence hopes that in the future training can be included with augmented reality elements that will lead students to travel different filmed routes based on their responses.
This is not the first time the NHS has resorted to virtual reality technology; although it is usually addressed to patients. Last year, Norfolk and the Suffolk Foundation Trust used VR headsets to help patients with phobias, while in 2020 the Oxford VR social interaction program was also launched which uses a VR environment with CBT techniques to help patients to overcome social anxiety.