UCLan medical students using the new VR technology at the Burnley campus

Medical students will be using virtual reality headsets to diagnose heart attacks and treat sepsis from the comfort of the classroom.

The University of Central Lancashire will be introducing the technology to Preston, Burnley and Westlakes to allow medical students to diagnose heart attacks, treat sepsis and examine the respiratory system following the development of technology by UK-based Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS).

It allows students studying within UCLan’s School of Medicine to practise treating acutely unwell patients in a simulated, virtual environment without risking patients’ lives.

A successful bid by the university to Health Education England (HEE) means the resulting £315,000 funding has enabled the University to purchase advanced Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets in addition to the licencing of special clinical simulation software provided by OMS.

The software gives students unlimited access to a clinical simulation library, including learning scenarios such as sepsis, diabetes, heart attack, pancreatitis and many more.

Clinical Lead for Interprofessional Education, Dr Abhi Jones said: “Simulation is a vital part of medical education.

“Traditionally small numbers of students practise with plastic mannequins in mocked-up hospital wards. Now, with our new immersive simulated environment, it means up to 100 students could be training on multiple simulations simultaneously and as often as they like.”

On entering the interactive virtual scenario students are greeted by a virtual nursing assistant and their patient. Learners can question, comfort, examine and treat the patient as they would in real life. Every action the learner takes including diagnosis is recorded, pinpointing areas for improvement and personalised feedback.

Dr Jack Pottle, Chief Medical Officer, Oxford Medical Simulation NHS Innovation Fellow, said: “OMS exists to help bridge the gap between healthcare education and practice. We wanted to allow learners to practise as often as they like in virtual scenarios, to learn from their mistakes, and ultimately provide the best possible care to their patients.”