Health personnel can learn by playing

“Virtual reality offers benefits for students and educators by providing standardized, repeatable and cost-effective clinical training on demand. A large body of evidence supports virtual reality simulation across industries, including healthcare.”

I wrote these words in an article published in 2019 in Future Health Care Journal Jack Pottle, medical director of Oxford Medical Simulation, a virtual reality medical simulation platform. And they have only confirmed.

A recent review published in the journal Simulation in Healthcare It revealed that, although more evidence is needed to corroborate the best practices of virtual simulation-based education, current studies show that this educational modality has a positive impact on student learning outcomes. Furthermore, “it can be used effectively to improve learning (knowledge), skills and performance, critical thinking, self-confidence, and student satisfaction.”

It is therefore clear that we must get on the train of virtual environments if we want to achieve levels of excellence that have a positive impact on professionals and patients.

In the Serious Games and Gamification division of the Biomedical Engineering Research Center of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Barcelona and the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, ​​we wanted to give virtual learning another spin proposing a simulator bypass gamified cardiopulmonary: VirtualCPB.

What is a bypass?

More than 50 years ago the first successful open heart surgery was performed. This historic milestone came after decades of research in which the scientific community perfected an extracorporeal circuit capable of sustaining life during open-heart surgery.

The bypass Cardiopulmonary (CPB), the technology that has evolved from these groundbreaking discoveries, is an extracorporeal device that supplants the functions of the heart and lungs, allowing for a bloodless field of intervention.

This technology is controlled by perfusionists, health professionals of vital importance in cardiac surgery.

At a time when specialized education and training are seeking increasingly creative ways to achieve excellence for their users, virtual reality and remote training are presented as a new opportunity for continuing education for these professionals.

We adults have forgotten to play

Virtual environments have already been shown to expand the learning and attention capacity of their users. So is there room for improvement? The answer is yes, and the game has it.

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget already said at the time that “boys and girls do not play to learn, but they learn because they play”. Science has confirmed that adults also learn by playing. Gamification provides the opportunity to extend regular learning management systems and virtual learning environments with game mechanics, such as challenges, points, levels, rewards, and narratives.

In the specific case of VirtualCPB, it is a virtual training platform with which you can practice from routine situations to critical incidents. Both technical skills and knowledge are addressed as well as transversal skills, for example, communication with the rest of the team.

Virtual training for toilets with VirtualCPB.
Author provided

When this system was tested in the master’s degree in Extracorporeal Perfusion and Oxygenation Techniques at the University of Barcelona, ​​it was surprising to see to what extent people who had never played a video game, after a brief initial hesitation, got involved and repeated game after game until they achieved the objectives, which were themselves pedagogical objectives.

In general, the students evaluated the experience very positively and indicated that they had had a strong sense of immersion. They felt that it was a very useful tool, a view shared by perfusion faculty.

Another aspect to highlight is that the students continued to play even after having passed the level, showing that they had more intrinsic motivation (the desire to improve their level of knowledge) than extrinsic motivation (in this case, accumulating points).

More fun and effective learning

Gamification reduced to adding points and medals to a conventional learning process has little to offer. The desire to excel, curiosity, the drive to acquire skills are the most important motivational factors in learning. Gamification must find the root of these motivational factors and encourage them so that the learning process requires the same effort but is more fun and effective. In addition to turning it into a true emotional and technical preparation for tangible reality.

It is foreseeable that, in the near future, gamified digital training will become an unavoidable complement to traditional training. In the medical world, as in any other profession that requires a certain dexterity, the use of simulators will be as common as it is now for airplane pilots.

A new era is opening in which virtual reality glasses will coexist with books and metaverses with classrooms.

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