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Using VR to Calm Agitated Patients in Singapore

The National University of Singapore – Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) has created a new virtual reality (VR) programme to teach medical and nursing students how to manage agitated patients effectively and safely. A component of improving their knowledge of agitation management in the clinical setting.

The programme titled “Virtual Reality in Agitation Management (VRAM)” teaches students how to manage VR patients whose behaviour resembles that of patients frequently encountered by healthcare professionals. As healthcare professionals from various disciplines frequently collaborate and developed a programme to integrate the learning of doctors and nurses to provide future patients with comprehensive care.

Moving forward, we will see more distressed patients, and healthcare workers need to have an empathetic response while collaboratively making decisions under pressure.

– Assistant Professor Cyrus Ho of the Department of Psychological Medicine at NUS Medicine

With blended learning, they seek to provide a more comprehensive education to enable future generations of healthcare professionals to acquire the skills necessary to manage agitation while practising empathy and compassion.

“Managing Aggression Using Immersive Content (MAGIC)” will be deployed in June 2022 as part of a class module taken by both medical and nursing students. In Singapore, the VR training in agitation management is the first of its kind to be included in the module’s didactic lecture on theoretical principles and role-play sessions on the practice of communication skills and physical restraint tactics.

The virtual reality setting provides a secure atmosphere for student learning, as selecting the incorrect response option will not harm anyone. Instead, students are taught the right response, which enables them to effectively manage real-world events and avoid harmful outcomes for both patients and healthcare personnel.

Students will have to de-escalate the situation while managing a patient who is becoming increasingly aggressive and disoriented by removing objects that could further agitate the patient, choosing the right phrase or deciding what to say to the patient and when to deliver medication or treatment, and physical restriction.

According to comparison surveys conducted before and after the trial training, most of the students expressed increased confidence in managing agitated patients and communicating with an agitated person, respectively.

Students never learned how to handle an agitated patient and work as a team in such situations prior to this programme. Knowing what to say and do when dealing with an agitated patient and under pressure is critical. Going through this programme has given them the opportunity to interact with agitated patients in a safe environment, with close supervision from their mentors.

Furthermore, the programme will be used as part of workshops for junior doctors and nurses to help them advance their knowledge of empathy and agitation management. Caring for patients who are experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression, or who require physical constraint, is one of the many issues faced by healthcare practitioners in the clinical context.

In recent years, the growth in mental health concerns, compounded by the impact of COVID-19, has led to an increase in cases of agitation and aggression against healthcare staff. As ineffective management of agitation can result in physical and psychological harm, it is crucial that healthcare professionals have the skills to manage agitation safely, holistically and with empathy.

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