London's Middlesex University has bought five VR headsets so that student nurses can train in a virtual hospital ward.

The university bought the devices from Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS). It follows the purchase of a four-bed simulation ward last year.

Third year adult nursing and paediatric postgraduates are using the virtual wards. There are  plans to make the learning available to midwifery students later in 2020.

“While wearing the Oculus Rift VR headsets, students ask patients questions to diagnose their condition. They then decide on the best treatment while making sure they follow certain procedures.

The student nurses can develop confidence in tackling 20 different scenarios. These include patients who have difficulty breathing, diabetes, COPD and severe allergies.

The students receive personalised feedback and grades using an analytics engine.

Fiona Suthers, Head of the Clinical Skills Department, said: "Any simulation is only as good as the way it is debriefed so you have to use a very definitive evaluation tool led by experienced people which is embedded in the curriculum effectively.

"Students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t (normally) feel comfortable making... and take more risks.”

Middlesex University

One of the simulations includes a patient with Sepsis and the body’s physiological response to infection and clinical presentation. As many as 52,000 deaths a year are related to sepsis, according to the charity Sepsis Trust.

Sarah Chitongo, a Midwifery Educator at Middlesex University, said: “Sepsis is one of the key scenarios because it is a time critical condition.

“You have an hour to ensure that the diagnosis is made and appropriate prescribed antibiotics are administered as every hour delay increases the patients mortality rate by 8%."

Middlesex University

Middlesex joins more than 30 institutions in the UK using the OMS VR medical training platform and is one of the first universities to roll out the technology for nursing students.

Dr Jack Pottle, chief Medical Officer of Oxford Medical Simulation, said: "We have developed OMS because we believe that training healthcare professionals in a flexible, zero-risk environment will transform patient care around the world.

“We learn best when learning from experience. Our system will allow users at Middlesex to do just that - without putting patient’s lives at risk."

Last year, Middlesex unveiled a simulation ward which includes an augmented reality pregnant woman which can simulate deliveries.

It also features an animatronic neo-natal baby which simulates breathing and responds to treatment. There is also a torso which, seen through 3D, aids ultrasound scan and human anatomy education.