Immersive VR Training Prepares Future Nurses

March 15, 2024

nursing students in VR lab

Nursing students are getting their first taste of virtual reality in the classroom.

The School of Nursing at Aurora University introduced VR into its curriculum earlier this year, giving students a chance to practice realistic scenarios for a diverse population of patients where they can practice nursing assessments and patient care in a virtual clinical setting.

With the help of a VR headset and handheld controllers, students are immersed into an interactive, three-dimensional, computer-generated environment where they can, for example, step into a virtual hospital room, talk to a patient, answer questions from a family member sitting at the bedside, read a chart, call the provider to discuss the patient's treatment plan, draw blood, interpret labs, and administer intravenous infusions.

The scenarios help nursing students develop critical thinking and decision-making skills, said Kerry Vaccaro, assistant professor of nursing and director of nursing skills and simulation center at AU.

“We can simulate situations that students may never get to see or experience in their clinical rotations,” said Vaccaro.

Nursing major Guadalupe Chavez ’24 recently used the VR during her pediatric rotation.

“I found this to be a better alternative than doing worksheets and just reading about the case studies,” said Chavez. “With the VR, my classmates and I were able to walk through the scenarios the same way as we would during clinical. I found this super helpful and a fun way to tie everything together.”

Nursing major Laura Spain ’24 agreed. “It was fun using the new technology. It really does enhance the nursing program. It took a little while to get used to, but after understanding how the VR worked, it was a great learning experience.”

The VR equipment was purchased through a $775,000 federal grant awarded to AU in fall 2022 to help bring advanced technology and equipment to AU's nursing labs. The grant was secured with the assistance of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Advanced technology and equipment are being integrated across the university's curriculum and programs, starting with the nursing lab, to help bring the theories and knowledge of the classroom to life.