National University, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary has recently launched a VR application to provide nursing students with VR simulation training as part of a federal grant.
“They walk around in underserved neighborhoods meeting homeless people, meeting people who have drug addictions, as well as some of the things in those communities that are helpful, like churches and other organizations.” – Gloria McNeal, Associate VP for community affairs in health, National University.
The virtual reality training program is comparable to hands-on clinical experience, with the simulation amounting up to about 22 hours.
“Where they would be out in the field in those communities, instead we’re doing a virtual perspective. We can control the environment, so we’re able to help the students understand what those communities need and how would you address those needs.” – Gloria McNeal.
“The impetus was to look at the fact that most nursing students are trained to work in acute care settings like hospitals, but they don’t really have a lot of experience in the community. HRSA really wanted us to focus on that, to get them prepared. Many of these communities are underserved and unsafe, so if we could look at it from a simulated perspective, it would be a win-win.” – McNeal.
The VR training program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently being funded through 2022 with help from the initial HRSA grant of $200,000 and donations from other institutions, like Las Patronas which gave $50,000, and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which donated $25,000.
“It’s unpredictable what the students might experience. In this way, we can help them learn what some of the dangers might be and how to avoid them and work around it. … It gives them the virtual hands-on experience that they are not getting in a traditional nursing setting.” – McNeal.
As of now, around 50 nursing students have completed the VR training program. McNeal anticipates the number of students to exceed 80 by the end of the two-year grant period.
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