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The University of Southampton

Innovative 'virtual' clinical training for nursing and midwifery students

Published: 24 March 2004

A team from the University of Southampton and Portsmouth NHS Trust are developing 'Virtual Interactive Practice(tm)' to enhance the clinical skills of nursing and midwifery students.

Led by the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery, this innovative project enables students to experience and interact with real clinical practice at a distance by utilising 'virtual' information and communication technology.

Dr Graham Watkinson of the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery is leading the project: "It will enable nurses, midwives and other health care professionals, to acquire and enhance key clinical decision making skills and thus potentially improve patient care. Using real anonymised clinical data, clinical competencies can be developed and assessed through the students' interaction with a distinctive blend of web-based and simulation interactions.

"Early indications suggest significant benefits in exposing students to clinical scenarios they otherwise would have been unlikely to experience in the real world. It's impossible to guarantee that students will be exposed to every type of serious condition whilst on placement. VIPTM allows students to be exposed to a whole range of scenarios in a safe environment which most effectively promotes learning.

"For example, in a scenario involving a patient suffering an asthma attack, we use sophisticated computerised mannequins to mimic the patient using real clinical data (anonymised).

"Additionally, through the use of video conferencing facilities, clinical practice can be brought into classrooms, skills laboratories, lecture theatres and delivered via the web.

"Real time can be applied to the scenarios and some can transcend several days testing the student's management ability to handle complex data from a number of patients just as in the real world of practice. We believe we are the first academic group to use real anonymised and consented data in this way," added Dr Watkinson.

Research by the team will test the extent to which aspects of nurses' learning in the real world of the NHS could be enhanced by virtual or other simulated forms of learning environments. Moreover the team hopes to enable all students to gain exposure to rare but life threatening events that they are not able to experience within the actual clinical environment.

The Virtual Interactive Practice project has been awarded a Healthcare IT Effectiveness Award (HITEA) -the project came second in the 'Best use of IT in secondary and primary care' category.

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images are available on request.
  2. The School of Nursing and Midwifery is one of the largest providers of nursing and midwifery education in the UK. It provides pre-registration and post-qualifying education to over 5000 students every year at centres across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It enjoys an excellent reputation for research and education innovation.
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