Researchers at the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, have developed a virtual reality training system that lets healthcare staff learn how to deal with agitated or aggressive patients. Patients, particularly with mental health issues, can become angry and distressed, and learning to handle such patients both with empathy and effectively is important for medical staff. This new system aims to mimic common omscenarios for trainee nurses and doctors, and allows them to make mistakes without causing any harm and without creating a risk. The system is quite sophisticated and also mimics common distractors found on busy healthcare wards to make the experience as realistic as possible.
Virtual reality allows us to immerse ourselves in a simulated environment, without the risks and consequences associated with the same situation in the real world. This quality makes it extremely useful for training purposes, from flight simulators to surgical training software. This latest VR training technology works to train nurses and doctors in the best ways to handle agitated or distressed patients and deal with the pressure and stress of these situations in a calm and empathetic way.
Managing a situation with an agitated patient inappropriately could pose risks for patients and staff alike, and physical and verbal attacks on healthcare staff are unfortunately relatively common. Virtual reality represents an ideal way for trainee staff to learn to handle such situations without any real-world consequences.
“Moving forward, we will see more distressed patients, and healthcare workers need to have an empathetic response while collaboratively making decisions under pressure,” said Cyrus Ho, a researcher involved in the study. “With the blended learning approach, we hope to provide more holistic learning to help future generations of healthcare workers learn the skills of managing agitation, while practising empathy and compassion.”
The system incorporates elements of a busy ward, to mimic the challenges of a clinical setting, including onlookers, a noisy TV, and requests from family members and nursing staff. The system also deals with ethical issues, such as how to handle a patient who wishes to discharge themselves against medical advice and issues around covertly administering medication to patients.
“While managing the patient who grows increasingly aggressive and disoriented, students will have to de-escalate the situation by removing objects that could possibly further agitate the patient, choosing the right words to say to patients, and making decisions, such as the correct dosage of medication, and the right time to administer treatment and physical restraint,” said Ho.
See a video about the system below.