Chaffey Rolls Out Virtual Reality Tech in Nursing

November 30, 2022

Nursing virtual reality

Nurse Angelica Medina stood nearby Lou Thao’s hospital bed as the patient groaned from the pain of diverticulitis. After checking his vital signs, Medina reached for the telephone and asked the on-duty physician whether she could give him morphine.

It turns out the “patient” was only a character in a virtual reality simulation and Medina – a vocational nursing student - was wearing Oculus Quest goggles in a Chaffey College classroom in Chino rather than a hospital.

“It’s just so real,” Medina said. “Having the goggles is a safety net. I feel like I’m rehearsing on my own in my room.”

Chaffey fully implemented VR technology in its vocational nursing program in theNursing students use VR equipment fall, making it one of the few Southern California community colleges using VR in nursing education.

The equipment and SimX teaching software was funded through a $63,000 Strong Workforce grant.

“Our nursing program prepares students to address healthcare needs of the community thanks to our quality faculty, innovative teaching approaches and cutting-edge technology,” said Chaffey College Dean of Health Sciences Eric Sorenson. “The introduction of virtual reality technology to our vocational nursing program provides our students another way to be prepared for treating real patients, and we are proud to be one of the first community colleges in the region to provide this resource.”

The equipment and software – provided by global information and analytics leader Elsevier – allows students to practice treating patients in various healthcare simulations. Chaffey College has used VR in numerous other programs such as the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, but it is the first time the technology has been incorporated into the nursing program. It is currently being used at Chaffey’s Chino Education Center.

Nursing students are required to complete hundreds of clinical hours – time spent in hospital settings with actual patients – to become licensed. But schools have encountered challenges getting access to clinical opportunities in the wake of COVID-19, said Naveen Khan, associate professor of nursing.

“This is a good solution,” Khan said. “It’s as realistic an experience you can get next to clinical settings.”

Chaffey nursing students have learned how to care for patients with the use of realistic mannequins for years, allowing them to practice everything from checking vital signs to delivering babies. But learning in a VR environment provides a different dynamic.

Medina, a Rancho Cucamonga resident, said learning with VR helps nursing students gain confidence. Going through treatment scenarios with other students watching can be intimidating, but VR reduces that feeling.

“It puts you in your own little world so you’re a little less nervous,” she said. “You don’t feel like you have a bunch of eyes on you. There’s comfort having these goggles.”