Virtual patients arrive at Norfolk & Norwich

Junior doctors at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital will be helped to hone their skills with the introduction of an innovative new teaching technology.

The use of virtual reality headsets, which allow the user to view and interact with a simulated clinical environment, will form part of the training offered to junior doctors as part of their foundation study.
The technology will provide multiple clinical scenarios involving a virtual patient for users to work through, practising as many times as they wish, with the headsets able to track the movement of the user, highlighting activity hotspots and making test results and observations of the virtual patient available in real time.

Immediate feedback is also provided by the technology, supporting users to develop advanced techniques in patient consultation and condition identification. Trained facilitators will also be available to provide verbal clinical feedback and support to those taking part following the sessions and the hospital has made the technology available outside of formal teaching times so junior doctors can utilise the new technology at any convenient time.

Across junior doctor training, there is recognition that this technology provides a fantastic alternative to the current teaching format, giving junior doctors the opportunity to refine their consulting skills without the need to arrange actors or create interactive scenarios within a teaching class.

Suhas Kumar, Consultant Intensivist and trust simulation lead, said: “VR based simulation is an evolving technology in medicine, it helps our junior doctors showcase their knowledge and skills in a VR setting, and they learn from such an experience and the repeated practice. The feedback they get from this learning will help them develop further and deliver safe patient care in the real world.”

Dr Jamie Botten, first year Junior Doctor in Renal Medicine, was one of the first to experience the new headsets. He said: “The virtual reality technology is great for developing clinical aptitude within different scenarios. The skills that we’re honing are not easy to practice without technology like this and after a few minutes, you can almost forget you’re wearing the headset and you’re in a real-life situation interacting with your patient.”

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