New investment allows UCLan students to treat virtual patients

An investment in immersive technology will enable medical students at the University of Central Lancashire to practise working on patients in a virtual reality setting.

The technology has been developed by Oxford Medical Simulation and allows students studying within UCLan's School of Medicine to practise treating acutely unwell patients in a simulated, virtual environment without risking patients’ lives.

The software gives students unlimited access to a clinical simulation library, including learning scenarios such as sepsis, diabetes, heart attack, pancreatitis and many more.

On entering the interactive virtual scenario students are greeted by a virtual nursing assistant and their patient. Learners can question, comfort, examine and treat the patient as they would in real life. Every action the learner takes including diagnosis is recorded, pinpointing areas for improvement and personalised feedback.

The university plans to use the new virtual reality software for medical students based at its Preston, Burnley and Westlakes campuses with the provision to extend usage of the Oculus Quest headsets through immersive placement experience, virtual tours and disability simulators.

The virtual reality headsets and licencing of special clinical simulation software has been funded by a £315,000 pledge by Health Education England.

Dr Abhi Jones, UCLan’s clinical lead for interprofessional education, said: "Simulation is a vital part of medical education. Traditionally small numbers of students practise with plastic mannequins in mocked-up hospital wards. Now, with our new immersive simulated environment, it means up to 100 students could be training on multiple simulations simultaneously and as often as they like.

"It’s important for us to remain at the forefront of innovative learning opportunities available to students. With an emphasis on honing effective decision making, critical thinking and clinical reasoning, this exciting new development will complement and reinforce our traditional teaching methods."

Dr Jack Pottle, chief medical officer, Oxford Medical Simulation NHS Innovation Fellow, said: "OMS exists to help bridge the gap between healthcare education and practice. We wanted to allow learners to practise as often as they like in virtual scenarios, to learn from their mistakes, and ultimately provide the best possible care to their patients.

“In working with the wonderful team at UCLan we are able to realise that vision. Their proactive and forward-thinking approach is a perfect example of how to implement virtual reality in medical education - we look forward to what the future brings."

Global rating

UCLan has also announced that it has scored highly on a global scale by the Research Excellence Framework.

Rated out of 5 Stars (excellent) UCLan scored the top rating for teaching, employability, internationalisation, facilities and inclusiveness. Dentistry, the University’s chosen specialist programme, scored 4 Stars (very good) while 3 Stars (good) were awarded in the research and innovation categories. Overall, the University was rated as 4 Star.

Prof Graham Baldwin, vice-chancellor, said: "This is another strong set of results for the university underlining our ability to transform lives though an outstanding educational experience.

"It signals to the wider community, including potential future students, partners, and staff, that UCLan is leading the way in modern learning, equipping graduates with the real-world skills needed to thrive in the global workplace."