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Nursing students use virtual reality to help identify sepsis



Nursing students at Middlesex University are using virtual reality simulations to learn about managing conditions such as sepsis.

Nursing students at Middlesex University are using virtual reality simulations to learn about managing conditions such as sepsis. 

While wearing the headsets, students ask patients questions to diagnose their condition and decide on the best treatment. 

They then receive feedback and grades using analytics from the headset, which they evaluate with their tutors. 

One simulation includes a patient with sepsis who presents with symptoms, such as discoloured skin, shivers and shortness of breath.

‘Sepsis is one of the key scenarios because it is a time critical condition,’ said midwifery educator at Middlesex University Sarah Chitongo.

‘You have an hour to ensure that the diagnosis is made and appropriate prescribed antibiotics are administered as every hour delay increases the patient’s mortality rate by 8%.’

She added: ‘Sepsis destroys internal vital organs. One of the first clinical indications is looking at the patient’s clinical presentation.’

The university is also using virtual reality headsets to recreate real life scenarios for managing diabetes, COPD and severe allergies without putting patients’ lives at risk, the university said.

Head of clinical skills department Fiona Suthers said the technology is allowing students to make mistakes without repercussions. 

‘The students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making [otherwise] because they can make mistakes safely and take more risks – which enhances their learning process,’ she said 

‘We learn best when learning from experience and our system will allow users at Middlesex to do just that – without putting patient’s lives at risk,’ said Dr Jack Pottle, chief medical officer of Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS), which supplied the headsets.

Third year adult nursing students and paediatric postgraduates are using the virtual wards with plans to make the technology available to midwifery students at Middlesex University later this year.

Middlesex joins more than 30 institutions in the UK using the OMS virtual reality medical training platform and is one of the first universities to roll out the technology for nursing students.