“First, Do No Harm” — the Foundations of Virtual Reality Health Sciences Training

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The ethical principle of nonmaleficence, or “do no harm” is foundational to caring for patients. Preventing harm to patients is a shared goal, requiring shared responsibilities across the patient-care team. Professionals committed to improving safety and outcomes for individuals seeking healthcare, must commit to designing and developing educational opportunities that effectively prepare current and future professionals and providers for the rigors of the modern healthcare world. 

Reducing harm is a vital starting point for anyone developing health sciences training of any kind. When building health sciences training simulations, this do-no-harm mindset was vital for identifying common activities where harm was both possible and preventable. Once these activities were identified, a team of experts worked to translate the necessary concepts into virtual reality (VR) health sciences simulations, using language that learners of multiple disciplines could understand. Equipped with the skills conveyed by these simulations, more healthcare professionals can hopefully be trained more effectively and efficiently, in a variety of settings.

Identifying opportunities to reduce harm via VR healthcare training

Transfr’s new health sciences training content, the Virtual Healthcare Clinic, is focused on reducing risk of patient harm by integrating evidence-based practices around common and preventable occurrences for harm: Falls, infection, and skin breakdown. A skilled team of healthcare experts is dedicated to improving patient safety, quality of care, and healthcare outcomes by building robust, effective healthcare training simulations. This team’s efforts are informed by deep experience in multiple facets of the healthcare world. 

“I was actively involved as a contributing member of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation’s workgroup to author an actionable evidence-based practice blueprint ebook on Culture of Safety,” says Hannah Schroeder, MSN-Ed, RN, CNE, CHSE, PCCN-K, Transfr’s Health Sciences Curriculum Manager. “A passion and affinity for integrating the science of safety, simulation, and improvement processes with the evidence-based practices in patient care and adult- and simulation-based education are evident throughout our health sciences simulations and curriculum. Education without results is wasted effort, my goal is to produce educational content that is engaging, informative, and impactful; ultimately improving patient care outcomes.”

To improve impact and outcomes we have conducted hundreds of fact-finding discussions with experts and external stakeholders representing employers, educational institutions, national organizations, and even the individuals providing direct care to patients and clients. These discussions provide the necessary evidence to determine prioritized roles, content areas and concepts, and key components of the overall curriculum. It is critical to integrate and implement evidence-based practices, like completing a needs assessment and gap analysis, when designing simulation-based educational experiences. 

How VR health sciences simulations can increase training effectiveness and reduce patient harm 

Immersive, VR, simulation-based training can drive change and contribute to reducing the risk for patient harm by providing opportunities for future and current healthcare professionals to have exposure to the science of safety. Through these simulations, they can learn about, see role-modeling for, and practice supportive activities in the domains of a patient safety curriculum. 

VR healthcare simulations bring light to the rationale, steps, actions, and responsibilities that healthcare professionals must integrate into daily work to overcome commonly-encountered patient safety challenges associated with human factors, systems, and/or technology.

“When I went to nursing school, we didn’t have any VR training. It’s great to be in the hospital doing hands-on things but a lot of times the nursing staff is very short and the amount of time you’re able to do hands-on activities is limited,” explains RN Sydney Denstorff on Upward, the Transfr podcast. “VR would have been great because repetition is huge — doing it over and over and over again.”

This is another place where VR healthcare training truly shines: The ability for learners to safely practice essential skills multiple times in a risk-free environment where there is zero chance of patient harm.    

VR training — the future of health sciences training

Improved  patient safety and reduced risk for harm require new dynamic partnerships as well as the use of innovative strategies that bring evidence-based education to an expanded healthcare workforce. Creating simulated clinical experiences in VR offers increased opportunities for more people to access rigorous clinical education. Improved access to high-quality simulation-based clinical education benefits our communities, classrooms, healthcare organizations, and ultimately, patients. 

VR offers learners a novel opportunity for immersive, repeatable learning,especially for learners who have been traditionally disenfranchised, have unique learning needs, or are limited by distance. Increasing career awareness and modernizing clinical training helps build a stronger, better-qualified healthcare workforce.  

“VR training provides asynchronous learning that’s repeatable and facilitates unlimited practice, anywhere.” explains Sydney Beaumont, Transfr Manager of Experience Design. “That takes the burden off of the already-pressed healthcare labor force. Those nurses can be repurposed elsewhere and people can still be practicing.”

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Publicly available resources to address patient safety concerns are available from many different organizations, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the  Patient Safety Movement Foundation (PSMF), and the World Health Organization (WHO)

Want to learn more about Transfr’s VHC simulations?

Picture of Lori Hardie
Lori Hardie
Lori Hardie, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CHSE, and Transfr Director of Health Sciences, has spent almost 30 years in healthcare. Before joining the Transfr team, she built and led a hospital-based simulation center training thousands of interprofessional healthcare clinicians, students, and staff. She was honored to serve on the INACSL Standards Committee in 2020 and co-authored the Professional Development Standard™ When she’s not helping build the future of VR health sciences training she is working on completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Health Policy at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.