Virtual reality nurse training at AU aims for real-world results

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If you have an Oculus or virtual reality device at home, you know how much fun it can be.

But Augusta University is using it as a tool to teach nursing students the difference between empathy and sympathy when it comes to end-of-life care.

Instead of their students apologizing for a situation, instructors want them to feel more like the patient.

“That’s empathy, and that is what we are doing with virtual reality,” said Dr. Lynsey Steinberg, board-certified medical illustrator at AU.

It’s a collaboration between the College of Nursing and the Center for Instructional Innovation. They all had the same goal: to teach empathy without the outside noise.

“What we felt was the most important thing was providing a safe environment where the students could be immersed in an end-of-life experience but in a safe place,” said Dr. Elena Prendergast, assistant professor of nursing at Augusta University College of Nursing.

It’s all part of Project LIVE – Learning through Interprofessional Virtual Experiences.

Students start with a test run with dummies and then the VR experience, interacting with the patient who is dying and family members under immense stress.

“They didn’t know the person who was acting as the actual family member, so it made it that much more real sitting there actually looking into someone’s eyes who is looking directly at them seeking an answer,” Predergast said.

Mary Lirette is a communications student who played the role of a family member. She lost her own mother two years ago.

“I think it’s important in calming down the patient when they are worried about their family member looking a certain way and then how to treat the family if they do not talk much,” she said.

They’re using technology to help students learn more about real care.

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