Students in the nursing program at Champlain College Saint-Lambert are making use of new technology that allows them to simulate working in a high-intensity hospital setting from the comfort of the classroom.

Students can engage in the simulation by wearing a virtual reality headset which shows them a detailed patient scenario and provides a chance to practice real world skills, patient interactions and emergencies in a controlled environment.

The simulation will help expose the next generation of Quebec’s nurses to the demands of the profession and give them lived experience to draw from before they ever set foot in a hospital. Champlain Saint-Lambert is pioneering this VR technology in Nursing and hoping it will pay off for students heading into clinical placements.

“I’m very happy that at Champlain Saint-Lambert, we can be a pioneer using this technology and exposing our students to it,” said Paul Brisson, coordinator of the Nursing program.

“With virtual reality, the teacher can stop the scenario and give live feedback to the students so they can adapt directly which is not the case in a hospital setting. I think it will help to improve the confidence of our students,” added Brisson.

Within the simulation, which can be used in both French and English, all the factors are controlled by teachers in the department who can challenge students by placing them in different simulated situations.

Both the student wearing the headset and the students watching everything on a second monitor have a chance after the simulation to debrief the activity and discuss areas of difficulty as well as success.

Students in the program say they feel lucky to have access to this additional time to practice and hone their skills in a less stressful environment.

“I really like VR because it prepares us for our clinical rotations,” said Maïka Semen, a third-year student in the Nursing program at Champlain.

“In nursing, you really learn from your mistakes, so by having virtual reality and making those mistakes will definitely allow us to perform better with patients. I think that’s one of the harder parts is learning how to communicate with patients in difficult times and I think having the opportunity to do this with VR will help us throughout our stages,” she said.

The VR technology was installed and made available to students for the first time this semester in collaboration with the college’s Information Technology and Media Solutions department.

“We are excited for the incredible learning opportunities that students of Champlain College Saint-Lambert will experience from this unique partnership between IT and Nursing,” said Robert Hofstatter, head of IT&MS at Champlain Saint-Lambert.

“This is the beginning of incredible things to come as technology becomes increasingly integrated into the pedagogical experience of our students for the development of engaging, experiential, deep learning.”

CBC TV reporter Sharon Yonan-Renold came to Champlain on Jan. 18 to film a news story about the virtual reality technology being integrated into the curriculum in the college’s Nursing department.

It was a great opportunity to celebrate the excellent collaboration between the college’s Nursing department and the IT department, in bringing this new technology into the classroom. Students spoke enthusiastically about the VR headsets during interviews with CBC that aired on the nightly news Jan. 21.

Third-year student Sophie Fung told CBC that she feels the technology will make her less anxious during placements.

“It helps us be prepared for our clinical situations before even being with our patients in real life,” said Fung.

Learn More About Champlain’s Nursing Program.