Undergraduate medical students at Queen’s University in Canada won’t be practicing certain medical procedures on real patients in January 2019. Instead, they’ll be using a VR medical training simulator called MedicActiV to gain experience with ailing virtual patients before stepping into a real medical setting to treat actual patients.

Queen’s University VR Center

Queen’s University is joining SimforHealth and HTC VIVE to design an 8,000 square foot virtual training center in the fall at the Faculty of Health Sciences Clinical Simulation Centre. The VR sim that students practice in is designed to look, sound, and have the same machines and tools as an actual hospital.

Students will get hands-on practice with the Vive and Vive Pro headsets and Wand controllers as they learn their way around hospital rooms, machines, and delegating tasks to nurses. Equally important, they’ll practice meeting patients, take vitals, run tests, diagnose, and treat virtual patients; making it a harmless place to make mistakes.

Watch the MedicActiV simulation video below…

“There was a time when physicians performed their first procedures and did the majority of their learning on patients,” says Dr. Dan Howes, Director of the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences Clinical Simulation Centre.

Looking to the future, Dr. Howes says, “Virtual reality offers exciting new opportunities for us to realistically simulate a wide range of clinical situations. We want learners to make all their beginner mistakes in the virtual environment, not on real patients.”

Going through a procedure the first or the hundredth time in VR has no actual health risks to the avatar. Most importantly, sim patients won’t feel pain, sue for malpractice, or die. Dr. Howes mirrors this viewpoint, maintaining, “the result will be a safer, more effective medical training.”

Learning how to do a lung draining procedure with a fake syringe or any new medical treatment with MedicActiV is better for truly understanding complex steps and even simple ones.

Using VR as a healthcare and education tool is a low stakes way to prepare book smart students for actual situations they’ll need do well in for a patient to improve or live.

A Medical Training Movement

Credit to: Queen’s University

As Canada’s first VR Medical Training Center, Queen’s University is leading the healthcare and education training movement. In addition to training undergrads, Queen’s wants to also offer graduate and postgraduate specialty training.

In 2017, Queen’s University became a competency-based medical education school. Consequently, all postgraduates in specialty training programs are allowed to “progress to the next stage of their education only once they have achieved required competency in clinical tasks —and not before.”

Before, completing a set number of rotation hours to progress on to the next level of medical training. Now that med students are to focus on training instead of time, they can demonstrate their competence.

As a result, VR is helping future physicians and medical specialists become better at their jobs and are saving patients lives. Queen’s University has a School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Nursing, and Medicine.

These are programs that are going to be seeing lots of VR training. Markedly to the benefit of the doctors, specialists, nurses, and patients. Ultimately, everyone wins!