Technology and design students and staff from the nursing education at UiA have joined forces to develop a new tool for nursing students.
“The tool presents a virtual reality (VR) with a nurse and patient, giving users both sound and image to simulate the most realistic situation possible”, says Jørn Hustad, assistant professor at the Department of Health and Nursing Sciences at the University of Agder (UiA).
The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between students and supervisors from the Faculty of Engineering and Science and supervisors from the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences at UiA.
The project was initiated by Hustad with the funds he and Arne Leland received when they were awarded the Education Prize at UiA in 2017. Leland passed away just before the prize was awarded. Hustad wanted to spend the money to develop a reasonable, user-friendly and portable tool for use in nursing education. Many students are insecure when commencing their practice placement.
“Many are not entirely certain how to go about examining a patient and making clinical assessments. We therefore wanted to develop a tool that could help students become more secure”, says Hustad.
In the autumn of 2019, Hustad challenged the students Tor Halvard Svendsen, Sindre Bakken and Toralf Storhaug to develop a programme for VR tools. All three of them are on the bachelor’s programme in multimedia technology and design at the Department of ICT at UiA.
Over the past year, the VR tool has been their bachelor’s project. VR stands for virtual reality and is, in short, advanced glasses or headset that immerses you in a pre-programmed reality.
The students have developed software for use in VR. They have prepared the programme to be used with handheld consoles. Then the user can see and use their hands when wearing the equipment.
In the software, users first visualise a waiting room. The users choose which scenario they want to practice. Then they enter a room where the nurse examines the simulated patient. The user determines the pace.
When examining the patient, the user goes through a checklist on a tablet. This is roughly the same as in the home care service, nursing homes and in hospitals.
“Everything takes place inside the VR tool”, Svendsen says.
The nursing education at UiA today uses simulation dolls as patients for the students. Practices using the dolls provide a good learning outcome for the students, but they are resource intensive according to Hustad.
“It is resource and time consuming to follow up every single student who is practicing on the nursing dolls. Also, the dolls and the equipment that follows are expensive. In addition, we have few dolls available”, he says.
The new VR equipment will be more affordable than the nursing dolls and easy to use.
“The VR tool can become a valuable complement to traditional simulation exercises. The goal is that the nursing students can use the VR equipment to carry out the exercises themselves – possibly several times”, Hustad says.
The VR tool does not need particularly powerful software.
The tool is still under development. The students Tor Halvard Svendsen and Sindre Bakken are going to continue their studies at UiA. In the autumn, they will both start their master's degree in multimedia technology and design. There, together with Jørn Hustad and other supervisors, they will continue to develop the software.
UiA Nyskaping contributes with guidance to ensure that licenses and other legal matters are done by the book.
“We use many programmes when we develop this. We must ensure that everything is in place when it is completed”, says Svendsen.
The goal is to have the tool ready for testing by nursing students over the next two years.