Student nurses complete work placements on virtual wards

Coventry University accelerated the provision of virtual simulated placements when the pandemic ruled out real-world learning

A Midlands HE institution has been helping remotely train nurses unable to complete work placements because of the pandemic.

Coventry University’s simulation team accelerated the provision of virtual simulated placements (VSPs) for students at its School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, allowing recreations of hospital wards and patients’ homes, as well as scenarios they might expect to face.

In some ways, say the people behind the initiative, the virtual alternative is a more useful learning aid than the real thing.

“VSPs allow us to provide complex decision-making training that we cannot guarantee our students would get on an actual placement,” said Dr Natasha Taylor, curriculum lead and associate professor for simulation.

“We can do this by creating a virtual world, a bit like a video game, where our students can find information, fulfil tasks and treat virtual patients.

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“We can mock-up patient X-rays and records, create role-play scenarios, add videos, audio recordings, and 360-degree pictures and videos to make this virtual setting seem real,” she added.

“This can never replace holding a patient’s hand, but it prepares them so that, when they walk onto a ward, they are not daunted.”

The trainees can access the VSPs from a wide range of devices, including smartphones and virtual reality headsets. Among those to benefit was Amy Poole MacDonald, a second-year student enrolled on a children and young people’s nursing BSc.

Her four-week VSP included a community nursing profile, virtual simulated case studies, and a week spent honing clinical skills.

“We had a virtual case study on wound care; a little boy had a deep cut to his foot,” said MacDonald. “We then had to follow the guidance as to how to repair it.”

“You could look at the guidance, research and ask questions of yourself, the staff and students. That scenario was helpful because, when I was in A&E, we had two different wounds needing two different approaches. It definitely made me feel like I knew what to do.”

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