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During COVID-19, Some Peoria Medical Students Continue Training In Virtual Reality

Courtesy OSF HealthCare

The University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria and OSF HealthCare are finding some early success using virtual reality technology to remotely train medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tim Shelley spoke with OSF Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center's Dr. Teresa Riech about the program.

TR: One of the hardest things that we do to train entrustability. You can establish the sort of book education part of the education, you can do assessment questions, and all those kinds of things. But the applicability of those is much harder to accomplish. And that has always been a challenge.

In the era of COVID, I think that's really been magnified, in part because it is not as safe to have learners at the bedside, in all cases, and sometimes we have limitations in things like PPE, or sometimes we have learners that have underlying medical conditions where we try to limit their exposure, because they might be higher risk. The ability to establish entrustability is even more difficult.

So we basically created two clinical scenarios where we have one adult scenario, one's a pediatric scenario, where we basically walk the learner through the stages of the disease. It looks like a virtual hospital room. So it's actually as if they're walking to a hospital room, they see a monitor scrolling, vital signs, just as you would see in a real hospital. We see a lifelike patient sitting on a bed. What we really have done is created an environment that mimics the real life encounters that a student might encounter.

So we created these two modules. And then we put 20 medical students through those scenarios. And the feedback was kind of amazing. First of all, we asked them to rate how competent they felt in managing, for example, pediatric asthma, before and after. And the shift was pretty amazing. So far, none of the learners rated themselves as not confident anymore. They all had some level: either somewhat or completely confident in managing those scenarios, which is pretty powerful, considering it wasn't a real patient.

TS: Can you tell me a little bit about how the actual platform works? So this is, this is a headset I put on? Correct?

TR: Yep. So it's a VR headset. When we create the scenario, we just plug in. We bring in all kinds of assets, 3D images. So in this case, we brought in a 3D model of a body that we could actually pan through and look at various cut levels. And in this case, the learner can actually pause the lesson. And they can go in and play around with that 3D model. And see it as if they were in, for example, a really high tech anatomy lab.

To recreate the room, we put everything around that we want them to see and that we want to talk about. And then we just record ourselves doing the lesson, as if the learner was right there with me walking through the lesson. And then when the learner puts on the headset, they get an experience of it's kind of a one-on-one lesson.

And we actually found that the learners spent a great deal longer in the space, sometimes up to 30 minutes longer, where they're actually playing around and looking at things and listen, going back and listening more carefully at material that they maybe didn't catch the first time. That's something that's really hard to recreate in, for example, a traditional classroom kind of setting.

TS: What's the future of this? Do we see this becoming a widespread tool for for medical training, both at UICOMP and across the country?

TR: I think we're recognizing that this pandemic is, there's not a clear end in sight. And so I think some of those challenges are going to continue for months. I think, if it were just a couple of months of inconvenience or disruption in medical student education or nursing education, I mean that I think we can recover from it. Bbut the longer this goes on, the more time is lost. More valuable time is lost.

So I think that this is something that we'll see more and more in mainstream education, and not just for medical learners.

Honestly, I think a lot of us are dealing with kids at home. and trying to homeschool. or some kind of hybrid system. and it is maybe not as impactful as it could be, not being able to be in the traditional classroom setting.

Another advantage is that you can send the file for the lesson out across geography and time. So, for example, you can record the lesson someone can play it somewhere else on their own time or somewhere completely on the other side of the world. They can download and listen and watch the same lesson, almost as if they were in the classroom with the same instructor.

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