Nursing students introduced to VR simulation tech

Houtrouw and Abbot in the VR studio

Nursing students recently received a tutorial on new virtual reality simulation software that is being developed as part of a collaboration between WMU's new Virtual Reality Development Studio and the Bronson School of Nursing.

User view

Kevin Abbott, interactive media specialist in WMU's Office of Information Technology, launched the virtual reality development studio this fall with a small team of talented students. "We started the development studio to help faculty explore and integrate custom virtual reality content into their classes and research," says Abbott. "After visiting the College of Health and Human Services and seeing the manikins they use in nursing, it seemed that these simulated nursing procedures would be a good fit as our first project in virtual reality.

Abbott, with student developers Leah Barton and Joe Samyn, worked with Susan Houtrouw, faculty specialist II in the Bronson School of Nursing, to create the custom VR simulations. These simulations will be used in tandem with the high-tech manikins already in use. They also add a degree of flexibility in that they can be experienced on any VR-equipped computer, rather than tied to a particular room in the building.

Nursing students getting used to the controls

"This is a great addition to our simulation exercises," says Houtrouw. "It doesn't replace our manikins or simulated patients, but it is a wonderful addition to the variety of simulation activities that we use at the Bronson School of Nursing."

Virtual reality can be used to simulate some routine activities, like intravenous blood transfusion, main line dressing replacement and tracheostomy care. But it will also allow for more detailed injuries such as lacerations and wound care.

The VR program for nursing will be integrated into courses beginning spring 2019. "The situations we can simulate in VR will eventually go beyond what we can do with our manikins," says Houtrouw. "The students seem to appreciate the technology and understand that it will help them practice their skills in an exciting new way."