Student nurses use virtual reality to learn how to identify sick patients

They can simulate patients who have sepsis, difficulty breathing, diabetes, COPD and severe allergies.

Matt Bodell
1 March 2020
VR Blood Taking

It allows educators to recreate scenarios in a digital environment.

A London-based university has invested in pioneering new technology which allows student nurses to work in a virtual hospital ward and train to spot patients with Sepsis.


Middlesex University has purchased five virtual reality (VR) headsets from Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) which can recreate scenarios in a digital environment that nurses would face in real life.

It is one of the first universities to roll out the technology for nursing students.

The student nurses can develop confidence in tackling 20 different scenarios – which are simulated through the headsets – including patients who have difficulty breathing, diabetes, COPD and severe allergies.

Crucially, one of the simulations include a patient with Sepsis and the body’s physiological response to infection and clinical presentation.


Virtual wards.

Sarah Chitongo, a Midwifery Educator at Middlesex University, said: “Sepsis is one of the key scenarios because it is a time-critical condition.

“You have an hour to ensure that the diagnosis is made and appropriate prescribed antibiotics are administered as every hour delay increases the patients mortality rate by 8%.

“Sepsis destroys internal vital organs.

“One of the first clinical indications is looking at the patients clinical presentation.


“Sepsis patients will display visible signs and this technology recreates the typical indicators such as patches of discoloured skin, shivers, sleepy or difficult to rouse and shortness of breath.”

Currently, third year adult nursing and paediatric postgraduates are using the virtual wards with plans to make the learning available to midwifery students later in 2020.

Learning from mistakes.

After training in virtual reality hospital wards, the students can get personalised feedback and grades using a detailed analytics engine to help them evaluate their efforts with tutors.

Fiona Suthers, Head of the Clinical Skills Department, said: “Any simulation is only as good as the way it is debriefed so you have to use a very definitive evaluation tool led by experienced people which is embedded in the curriculum effectively.

Students can obtain the feedback, see how well they have performed and discuss the results after their own internal reflection, so learning can emerge through the actions that are right or wrong.


“This technology is allowing students to make mistakes without repercussions.

“The students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making because can make mistakes safely and take more risks – which enhances their learning process.”

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