Virtual Reality: The New Tool in Healthcare Education - MedCity News

I don’t think anyone can really be prepared for their first time using a VR headset. Technology has become such a familiar part of our lives that I think its glamor can sometimes be lost on us, but virtual reality has given people a taste of something they’ve never experienced before. Virtual reality isn’t a technology that just adds to our lives, it’s a technology that takes our lives into a whole new reality.

It’s no wonder that the impact of virtual reality is far-reaching. You can be transported to any corner of the world and feel like you’re really there. You can buy movie tickets and watch movie in VR cinema with your friends. And of course, you can play a huge variety of video games that make you feel like you are part of the action.

So what does this have to do with healthcare? Although virtual reality applications do not appear to be very useful in the healthcare industry, VR has proven to be a valuable tool for treatment and care. Medical teams have used virtual reality to plan and practice complex operations, such as a neurosurgical procedure, before. It is used as a pain management tactic to distract patients from scary or painful procedures, especially in cases where sedation and anesthesia cannot be given. It has also helped addiction recovery professionals be more creative in the strategies and techniques they use to help their patients overcome their addictions. But another notable way virtual reality is being applied to the healthcare industry is as a training tool.

Thanks to VR, facilities are able to create simulations for a number of different scenarios that employees can experience from a first-person perspective. Here’s how it’s revolutionizing healthcare education.

Deeply immersive and interactive education

Medical professionals know that healthcare is a high-stakes industry, so they are grateful for all the stages of training they go through to adequately prepare for their future roles. Extensive classroom training, field training, and mentorship from experienced medical professionals are important, but being on your own for the first time can be daunting.

Virtual reality gives new doctors, nurses and medical staff the ability to immerse themselves in real-life scenarios as if they were in charge. They can see the immediate consequences of their actions and can learn from their right or wrong behavior. They can be exposed to dangerous or life-threatening situations and practice resolving each scenario without putting themselves or their patients in real danger.

Facilities are always researching and developing new ways to improve their training processes, and what better way to do that than by having new staff members immerse themselves in situations they might experience on the job? Here’s how facilities can instill self-awareness in their employees while creating more confident and capable teams. Studies have shown that experiential learning also leads to greater compassion for patients. This is much more difficult to achieve with more traditional training methods where employees cannot get regular hands-on practice.

It has been proven that virtual reality-based learning improving efficiency across the healthcare industry while reducing the possibility of fatal errors. Nothing prepares someone for the real thing more effectively than a program designed to replicate real-world experiences.

Training for new or updated equipment

In order to continue to provide the best patient care, medical equipment must be constantly updated or replaced with new devices. With any new feature, there’s always a learning curve—except in healthcare, those learning curves can have dire consequences.

Training new employees on new or updated equipment can be extremely time-consuming, and facilitating staff members’ time to familiarize themselves with the equipment can be a headache. Virtual reality not only makes training with equipment faster and more accessible, but also gives everyone the opportunity to practice using the equipment, tools and technology as much as necessary to get more comfortable before using it for the first time.

Higher staff retention

Since the start of the pandemic, the healthcare industry has seen an increase in staff turnover in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other medical offices. As managers find ways to entice employees to stay, it appears that some of the usual incentives, such as higher pay and bonuses, they are no longer good enough to combat record levels of burnout and fatigue.

In addition to their well-being, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel also choose to leave their jobs because of lack of personal growth and low self-esteem — both put patients at greater risk of harm. Facilities should invest in the ongoing education and training of their teams, which will help staff members develop greater confidence and competence. Virtual reality goes beyond the traditional training methods that facilities often use, and this new immersive, experiential way to train staff members is critical to their qualification and satisfaction. VR simulators are shown increasing procedural confidence and develop technical skills in the workplace. Investing in your employees means investing in advanced technology that will enable them to perform better in their roles.

Virtual reality helps build confident, collaborative teams that then create a positive workplace environment for both other staff members and patients. Using tools like virtual reality to train current and next generations of healthcare workers is another way executives can commit to improving the industry as a whole.

Photo: Moyo Studio, Getty Images

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