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Using virtual reality to help nursing students identify sepsis

University says headsets allow students to gain experience in potential patient scenarios
Image of a patient exam as seen through a virtual reality headset. Nursing students at Middlesex University London are using virtual reality to experience what it is like to treat patients

University says headsets allow students to gain experience in potential patient scenarios

Nursing students are using virtual reality to experience what it is like to treat a patient with sepsis.

Using virtual reality headsets, the students at Middlesex University London can recreate scenarios they might encounter when they start work.

While wearing the headsets, they ask virtual patients questions to diagnose conditions and decide on the best treatment.

The headsets also simulate working with other members of a multidisciplinary team, such as doctors, and making decisions under pressure.

Learning to identify typical indicators of

University says headsets allow students to gain experience in potential patient scenarios

Image of a patient exam as seen through a virtual reality headset. Nursing students at Middlesex University London are using virtual reality to experience what it is like to treat patients
Image of a patient consultation as seen through a virtual reality headset
Picture: Oxford Medical Simulation

Nursing students are using virtual reality to experience what it is like to treat a patient with sepsis.

Using virtual reality headsets, the students at Middlesex University London can recreate scenarios they might encounter when they start work.

While wearing the headsets, they ask virtual patients questions to diagnose conditions and decide on the best treatment.

The headsets also simulate working with other members of a multidisciplinary team, such as doctors, and making decisions under pressure.

Learning to identify typical indicators of sepsis

The simulation recreates typical indicators of sepsis, such as patches of discoloured skin, shivering, tiredness and shortness of breath.

Sarah Chitongo, midwifery educator at the university, said sepsis was chosen as one of the key scenarios because it is a time-critical condition.

‘You have an hour to ensure that the diagnosis is made and appropriate prescribed antibiotics are administered, as every hour delay increases the patient’s mortality rate by 8%,’ she said.

As many as 52,000 deaths a year are related to sepsis, according to the charity Sepsis Trust.

Middlesex University London midwifery educator Sarah Chitongo wearing a headset for a virtual reality training session
Midwifery educator Sarah Chitongo wearing a headset during a virtual reality session
Picture: Middlesex University London

VR gives students the freedom to make mistakes 

Other virtual reality scenarios presented in the training include patients who have difficulty breathing and those with conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe allergies.

Head of the university's clinical skills department Fiona Suthers said the technology allows students to make mistakes without repercussions.  

‘The students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making, because they can make mistakes safely and take more risks – which enhances their learning process,’ she said.


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