The US is currently experiencing a shortage of nurses and this will only continue to grow with the aging population of the baby boomers.
There are many contributing factors to the RN shortage according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, but the one that stands out is without a doubt the high stress levels associated with the job. This is a multi-factorial issue, but inadequate education of nurses and ancillary staff increases stress levels. With immersive technology, namely virtual reality (VR), nurses and staff can have on demand access to education and training modules whenever they need it.
Imagine you are a RN on a medical surgical floor and you have 4-6 patients who you are responsible for during your 12-hour shift...
The patients' diagnoses range from pneumonia to congestive heart failure to COPD exacerbation. During this shift you are informed that your patient who has endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valve) is going to be discharged to his home after receiving his PICC line, a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter.
After the patient goes for his PICC line, you will be expected to send him home with the proper education on how to care for this new PICC line. But you have not had a patient with a PICC line in a few months, so you need a refresher on how it should be cared for.
Your colleagues are too busy to help you and find the printed information available to you isn’t enough. Now your stress levels begin to increase as you prepare to send this patient home with possibly not enough guidance, because you know that if this line isn’t cared for properly it can become infected.
Luckily, you remember that your unit is trialing a virtual reality program that contains education for nurses. You place the headset on and find a video for patients and nurses about caring for central lines and PICC lines. It is just the refresher you needed. The video was stimulating, engaging, and realistic.
You decide to let the patient watch the patient oriented perspective then go over it together once he's finished.
This way the patient can see and then do, which further reduces the patient's stress as well.
These videos were each 3 minutes long- and covered everything the patient would need to go home with his PICC line.
The above scenario is just one example of how virtual reality can be useful to RN training with realistic refreshers and as a teaching tool for nurses and patients alike.
In this example the technology not only educated the nurse and the patient it also helped the decrease this nurses stress by relieving some of her work load. VR can also be used in the day to day hustle to refresh nurses or patients on various topics. Other ways VR can be used are in nursing school to teach skills before they are done on a patient such as IV insertion, for challenging situations such as airway loss or cardiac arrest, and to teach communication techniques and skills.
The important part to remember is that these tools offer learners a rare chance to experience challenging scenarios but in a safe, repeatable environment. It's about building confidence and reducing stress while enhancing patient-nurse communication.
At the end of the day, we now have a tool available that will help patients and nurses alike, all the while improving outcomes along the way.
I sincerely believe and hope that virtual reality will play an integral role in the future of RN training and daily patient care.