A high-tech Swansea University initiative to develop specialist virtual reality training for healthcare professionals has secured a major funding boost.
The project, entitled Virtual Reality a Welsh Reality, has been awarded almost £900,000 to expand immersive learning by creating a series of bespoke training modules in both English and Welsh.
The University is partnering with Hywel Dda University Health Board to develop the modules and ensure they meet high standards of clinical education with relevance for undergraduate learners and healthcare professionals throughout Wales.
Director of Simulation Education, Associate Professor Joanne Davies, who submitted the successful funding bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, is overseeing SUSIM, the University’s specialist centre and programme to develop ground-breaking simulation and immersive education.
She said: “I am delighted on behalf of the team that our bid was successful and thank HEFCW for its support of our vision to develop virtual reality for our future and current healthcare professionals.
“The use of VR will allow us to enhance our blended learning approaches to education and offer the opportunity to train individuals and teams in an immersive, engaging, and flexible way. It is more relevant than ever to help break the boundaries of when and where education can occur, especially with current pressures on all parts of the service.”
The VR modules will be designed for multi-professional use and will include topics such as healthcare team and communication scenarios, emergency management cases, patient empathy cases, and a variety of healthcare training related scenarios and skill practice sessions.
Besides the practical training element, the modules will also play an important role by providing information for a research project examining the effectiveness of virtual reality training across the health professions.
The team is now tendering for an innovative VR development company to create the modules and will also be inviting students and healthcare specialists to be part of the design and piloting phases of the VR build.
She added: “We felt it was important to build and pilot training designed by the academics, healthcare professionals, and students that will be adopting this new technology while embedding simulation education standards and researching the educational effects within a complex system.”
Associate Professor Davies and Professor John Gammon, have now formed a VR research group that includes subject matter experts, research and assessment specialists, health board partners, and members of the SUSIM team to ensure that quality and expertise at each phase of the project.
The development of the modules comes as work is progressing on state-of-the-art immersive wall simulation suites at the University’s Singleton and St David’s Park campuses. The Swansea centre is believed to be the largest installation of immersive wall simulation suite technology of its kind in the UK.
This project is also aligned to an ongoing partnership with Hywel Dda UHB to help grow all forms of simulation-based learning, support individual learning, and enhance team and system performance.
The Health Board’s Director of People Development, Amanda Glanville said: “This is an exciting time for Hywel Dda working in partnership with Swansea University, especially as simulation is the key driver of our newly launched Interprofessional Education Plan.
“This project will create a platform where other health boards can benefit as well as firm foundation to continue the growth of Interprofessional education and the use of simulation in our people development activities.”
Professor Keith Lloyd, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, added: “This is another important step forward for us. By offering the very latest in healthcare training and staying at the cutting edge of immersive education, we are ensuring Swansea maintains its international reputation for innovation and excellence as we train the next generation of health professionals.”