Boise State University (BSU) believes that their virtual reality technology is giving them an inside look at the future of nursing. Nursing students at BSU also learn patient care using high-fidelity mannequins in the simulation center, but faculty members think the virtual reality technology gives students another level of experience before training in a hospital.

With the new virtual reality technology, BSU nursing students are getting a new kind of hands-on experience, one they’ve never had before. When the technology was first developed last year, Boise State nurses and gamers won a national award for their collaboration in creating the wearable technology that allows nursing students to practice basic procedures using haptic gloves that provide instant feedback.

The virtual reality system includes sensory gloves and virtual reality goggles which create a medical environment where students go through a series of tasks like catheter insertion and environmental sterilization, and it is similar to a game, scoring the student’s proficiency.

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Faculty members at BSU still believe that mannequins are an important teaching tool, but virtual reality gives students a new way to learn, making it almost like a game for them. The BSU faculty has noticed that students are even becoming competitive, both with themselves and their peers, striving to do better each time. Using Oculus Rift and their own custom Haptic system, students can actually reach out to touch and interact with things inside the virtual reality environment. With this technology available, BSU nursing students can practice a variety of new simulations that weren’t possible before.

A major benefit to using the virtual reality technology is the cost. The simulation technology costs around $5,000 and new simulations can be created in just four to six months, compared to manikins that cost $15-64,000 apiece. BSU is now seeking funding to develop a variety of new games and multiplayer simulations. The virtual reality technology is much more cost effective, and allows for more learning and collaborating, especially when nursing and medical students can work through procedures together.

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Boise State’s nursing program houses 450 students, requiring a lot of practice hours, and the virtual reality technology allows more practice making it a tremendous part of the program’s future. The School of Nursing is working on developing more new technology that will give students accurate hands-on experience, including working with 360 video.

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