Nursing students in Goleta using virtual reality to better understand patients

CSUCI nursing program using virtual reality

GOLETA, Calif. - For the first time, students at California State University Channel Islands are getting a glimpse into a different world.

A new program at CSUCI is giving nursing students a chance to experience what their patients are going through firsthand.

Several students tested out this new program in Goleta at the Channel Islands satellite campus Tuesday morning.

“We are actually working with students and letting them put on the virtual headset and become the patient,” said Jaime Hannans, who is the Associate Professor of Nursing.

Two students at a time were able to test out the virtual reality experience for 15 minute intervals.

“I embodied a 74-year-old African American patient,” said Taylor Grosenbach, CSUCI nursing student. He had macular degeneration where you do not see the center of your vision and he also had hearing impairment so everything sounded kind of foggy. You actually get to see it from a first person perspective.

The nursing program at Channel Islands first introduced “Embodied Labs” nearly a near ago, and now the University is expanding its program to the satellite campus in Goleta.

“We are exploring ways to improve patient care and build empathy for our students,” said Hannans. “It is a great opportunity to let them experience a disease process or chronic disease such as Alzheimer's, or vision and hearing impairment from the patient perspective and really have a better understand how frustrating and difficult and challenging that might be for the patient.

“You can read about it, and you can try to describe it, but actually doing it you really struggle and now you understand how they are struggling,” said Grosenbach.

The program also includes a project known as mixed reality where students are able to practice difficult conversations they might encounter with family members or faculty through virtual role-play.

“They experience some family interaction and then go to a doctor's office visit trying to understand what that would be like,” said Hannans.

“I think it is great, especially going into health care we are going to experience a lot of patients like this so know firsthand how they feel will help us be better prepared to help them,” said Grosenbach.

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