Interactive, authentic and cost effective - the benefits of immersive learning in the healthcare sector have never been more apparent.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, e-learning has never been more important. Researchers in the healthcare sector have gone to great lengths to declare the end of exclusively in-person teaching. Instead, they argue that blended teaching “is the next generation teaching method”.
While the healthcare sector never shied away from implementing technology into its learning and teaching practices, the question of whether it’s fully equipped to provide continuous professional development (CPD) and soft-skills training opportunities to its staff is still pertinent. Researchers at King’s College London argue that in the case of children’s nurses, “access to continuing professional development could be made more attainable, realistic and relevant”. Can e-learning be an effective enough tool to tackle this?
In their scoping review on the effectiveness of e-learning for CPD within the healthcare sector, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions found that the e-development of healthcare professionals often improved patient care. It advances the staff’s technical skills while delivering positive results to the people receiving the treatment.
Similarly, research from King’s College London argues that e-learning in particular “allows nurses to learn at their own pace, permits access for rotating rosters and people living in geographically-diverse regions in a cost-effective and timely manner”. In fact, some of the most successful courses provided “interactive and authentic learning experiences, which promoted direct clinical application”. As the entire healthcare sector grapples with the ramifications of the pandemic, the importance of accessible and uniquely tailored e-learning cannot be underestimated.
Moreover, research in the healthcare sector reports mostly positive outcomes of e-learning, as adapting more immersive technologies has been shown to improve the staff’s technical abilities and meta-skills.
Elkman (2018) found that a single e-learning course helped increase staff confidence and knowledge. As well as generally being “an effective tool for new and established ward nurses working in haemato-oncology”. Additionally, learners who underwent clinical e-learning “showed greater motivational and self-regulated learning than those who had never experienced it”. Hence, implementing virtually-simulated CPD goes beyond the institutional level and benefits staff on an individual basis.
What Are We Doing?
The VR Hive alongside the University of the West of Scotland recently developed an effective extended-reality solution for nurse training. In it, the learners can practice their skills in an immersive environment that provides a safe space for learning. The simulator covers patient prioritisation, preparing for the visit, holistic risk assessment, patient dialogue, conducting treatment, and post-treatment care options.
The simulation helped advance the learners’ technical knowledge while calling on their meta-skills, such as communication, self-reflection, and empathy. It cements the fact that immersive e-learning can help improve the staff’s technical skills while simultaneously advancing their soft skills.
With the increased need for soft-skills training, adapting to immersive technologies can advance these skills in an engaging, unique, and ultimately safe environment for all healthcare professionals.