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Virtual reality headsets for UEA medical students

The University of East Anglia has become the first university in the UK to give all students at Norwich Medical School their own virtual reality (VR) headsets.

1,250 students attending Norwich Medical School have been furnished with the headset for all five years of their degree, having chosen one of four designs.

The headsets allow students to be transported into hospital environments, such as operating theatres and hospital wards, in addition to appointments and procedures from the perspective of patients.

Examples of the simulations that students can access include, observing an A&E doctor assessing and treating a patient with chest pain, watching a patient undergo an operation, and observing the trauma team treat a patient with burns and fractures.

As clinical placements for healthcare students were limited due to the pandemic, the headsets provide an innovative and unique opportunity for virtual immersion in medical scenarios and surgical procedures without hindrance.

Dr Jordan Tsigarides, an Academic Clinical Fellow at the School of Health Sciences at UEA and VR Lead for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was highly involved in leading the project. He has stated: “It’s no secret that the pandemic has highlighted the difficulty of arranging placements for medical students in healthcare settings, but this is an innovation that we have been working on for some time and Covid-19 has only accelerated us bringing it in.”

VR has already been considered as a way to treat patients, by way of digital therapeutics, which turns distraction into a more immersive and accessible clinical treatment.

As such, it is becoming more and more immersed in the medical field, not just for patients, but also medical staff. At Penn Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology the development of VR has been critical in the advancement of cancer treatment through mindfulness and distraction therapy to alleviate fear and anxiety surrounding treatment.

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Una Jones

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November 2021
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