PORTLAND, Maine — College classes are typically pretty talkative environments, especially for Emily Kelsey and the rest of her classmates who are in their third year of nursing school at the University of New England in Portland, Maine. But the future of health care training in this country is silent.
Inside a classroom here, these students are hard at work, fully immersed in hands-on, virtual reality training. Ten students are scattered around the room all with their own virtual reality headsets on.
While this classroom is largely silent, if you listen closely, you can hear that's not completely the case. Beneath the goggles, Kelsey and her classmates are inside a virtual reality hospital room sitting with a patient who is having trouble breathing.
"I just feel so anxious today," the virtual reality patient said during the simulation.
Unlike old-school mannequins though, these patients can talk. They run through what's wrong and give nurses a list of medications they're on.
"I'm sorry. I can't remember everything I take each morning," the patient in the simulation added.
Students can take their temperature and even place their hands on the patient before making a diagnosis.
At the end of every class, instructor Ashley Sculac leads a debriefing.
"They’re focused the critical thinking and reasoning. They’re truly immersed in the environment," Sculac explained.
UNE is one of the only colleges in the country using the Oxford Medical Simulation virtual reality program.
Assistant Nursing Professor Gina Kemper doesn't see virtual reality as replacing real-life clinical training. However, she's seen the impact this all has had on her students.
"I think it really gives them a head start in taking care of real patients," Kemper noted.
As for students like Emily Kelsey, they say it's helping them develop problem-solving skills while face-to-face with patients.
"It feels real, you have to make decisions like how you would in real life," Kelsey said.