Virtual patients to train nurses

December 23, 2005

Research at the University of Central England promises to revolutionise the way nursing is taught in universities.

Staff at the university's Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (Cetl) - the Centre for Stakeholder Learning Partnerships, which was launched a week ago - will look into new ways of teaching student nurses through "mobile learning".

A large part of the work will be to explore mobile learning methods, where students can learn on the move or access information through handheld devices on the hospital ward and apply their knowledge straight away.

Nigel Wynne, learning and teaching task group fellow at UCE, said the centre would employ handheld personal computers, laptops, mobiles and simulation techniques to develop students' skills. For instance, they could download revision notes and work on them on a bus. The idea is to create bespoke learning for students.

He said:"We will evaluate how students use and learn and are assessed. If you are in prac-tice, your role is to look after patients.

"With this, students can assess where they are and what they need to learn and then can come back to the assessor and tell them what they need to learn."

With a shortage of opportunities for all nursing students to put into practice what they have learnt, the centre will also produce simulation programmes where students can practise injecting, for example, in a safe virtual environment.

An international collaboration with a Dutch hospital will see the creation of a virtual ward where students can access medical information and assess patients and interpret data.

For the first time in nursing, the centre will also get patients and practitioners to help teach the students.

As the new methods are evaluated, they can be applied to a variety of vocational courses.

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