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VR Training for Nursing Students

Virtual Reality Training for Newcastle University Nursing Students
Photo Credit: University of Newcastle

Nursing students at Australia’s University of Newcastle are getting a world-first virtual reality (VR) simulation training in conflict resolution.

As reported, the Conflict Resolution training VR program replicates a real-world emergency room and asks students to respond to a high-pressure mock scenario.

As part of the Bachelor of Nursing, students undertaking their mental health module are immersed via a VR headset.

Faced with ‘Angry Stan’, an avatar based on real-world interactions, users must remain calm and navigate a range of challenges to manage the situation.

About the Initiative

  • The program, a product of the collaboration between the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the University’s IT Services Innovation Team, is the first of its kind to respond to real-time biofeedback such as human heart rate.
  • Additionally, it gives second-year students a realistic insight into the clinical workplace where they can practise controlling their stress levels, manage conflict and build resilience in the classroom before entering the clinical environment.
  • Knowing how to effectively diffuse an escalating situation while keeping a clear head can make a life-changing difference in emergency care.
  • Emulating some of the challenges healthcare workers may face in their day-to-day job, Conflict Resolution is designed to develop resilience to ensure challenging situations can be managed.
  • It was imperative to develop an immersive training program in support of zero tolerance for violence against healthcare workers.
  • The training program allows students to practice dealing with these potential situations in a safe, repeatable and realistic environment.

Background of the Initiative

Mental health nursing is an incredibly rewarding career. However, it is an environment where emotions can run high with the possibility of encountering people who are having possibly the worst day of their lives.

Stan represents someone health workers may come face-to-face within an emergency environment. He is looking for his friend who has been brought in as a patient and is becoming increasingly agitated.

The task at hand is to assess the situation and respond to Stan’s questions in a way which puts him at ease, alongside balancing competing priorities, while also maintaining a steady heart rate.

The Role of Biofeedback in Learning and Teaching

Forging a reputation in VR, the University has developed an impressive portfolio of health-related training programs over the past few years.

Unlike previous programs, Conflict Resolution is the first to incorporate the users’ biofeedback, which is their heart rate.

The unique thing about the new program is that the user is totally immersed in the scenario so resilience can be built in a whole new way.

The qualitative and quantitative responses to the program actually help tailor education to individuals, which ensures a deeper teaching and learning experience.

Moving Ahead With Immersive Teaching

Student feedback shows that the ability to repeat a scenario in the classroom or in their own time off-site is extremely beneficial.

Looking at the bigger picture, the team is working towards ensuring the program would continue to be a valuable resource outside the higher education sector across the board.

Equipping employees with ways to maintain their mental health should be of paramount importance. Dealing with conflict in the workplace is not something that is exclusive to healthcare.

Moving forward, gender roles and environments within Conflict Resolution should be explored to make it applicable to people working across a range of industries.

The team responsible is comprised of Dr Donovan Jones, Professor Mike Hazelton, Ms Shanna Fealy, Ms Theressa Lavender and Ms Vendela Pento.


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