Newcastle Uni deploys VR to teach midwifery

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Newcastle Uni deploys VR to teach midwifery
Credit: UoN

Bridging the gap between the clinic and the classroom.

The University of Newcastle has developed a virtual reality application that gives its midwifery students hands-on experience resuscitating a newborn baby without the real-world risks.

The bespoke VR neonatal resuscitation app puts students in a midwife's shoes by requiring them to pass through a series of time-critical scenarios.

It gives them the opportunity to learn the entire resuscitation procedure in a realistic setting, and also repeat it - and fail - as many times as they like without compromising the newborn patient.

It has been designed to “bridge the gap between the education setting and a real-world emergency room”, according to chief information officer Anthony Molinia.

The app also provides students the ability to practice using and preparing equipment, and communicating with hospital staff and parents. It can be used in both a formal test setting or with a virtual ‘helper’. 

Previously students could typically only access one lab session per semester.

Now they are using the VR application six times each on average, with 60 percent of the use occurring as a result of the student's own initiative. Newcastle Uni allows students to take home the VR headsets so they can use the application at a time of their own choosing.

The app was developed over a 12-week period by the university’s IT services innovation team, with significant input from the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

The IT services innovation team, which consists of just four staff, was established in 2016 to explore innovative technology solutions to enhance the learning experience. It leaned on three offshore developers from Cognizant for additional help in the VR project.

Molinia said the agile approach taken with the project – a relatively new style for the university – was integral to its success.

“A key to this adoption was trialling the solution first, allowing the innovation team to demonstrate and refine the value the solution delivered, rather than forcing a new system on them.”

The university is now looking at potentially commercialising the application after receiving interest from clinical providers. It is also exploring partnerships to utilise the tool for training in third-world countries.

This project has been named a finalist in the education category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2017/18. The full list of finalists can be found here.

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