Virtual reality suite is preparing nurses for work at new Northampton university campus

Vice chancellor Nick Petford tries out the new nursing training facility at the University of Northampton Waterside campus.
Vice chancellor Nick Petford tries out the new nursing training facility at the University of Northampton Waterside campus.

Nursing students will be better prepared for work placements and future careers thanks to new, state-of-the-art training facilities at the University of Northampton campus.

Vice-chancellor Professor Nick Petford has officially unveiled the bespoke new Virtual Reality (VR) training facility at the Waterside campus.

It features a set of lifelike mannequins that allow students to ‘treat’ people in a variety of nursing settings without ever leaving the university, giving them ‘as close to real-life as possible’ training.

The VR system can play students through actual conversations with characters in a medical scenario - as well as giving them clinical feedback.

Donna Bray, subject lead for nursing at the University of Northampton, said: “We are moving toward ‘hyper-real’ training here at the University of Northampton, so it’s important to state that nursing students need facilities like this. The more life-like they are, the more they engage with their training, preparing them for the reality of life on the wards.

“Coupled with Virtual Reality, we can deliver the most realistic simulation training nursing students can possibly experience.”

Gemma Langley was one of the child nursing students who tried their hand at VR:

"Everything looks and sounds as if you are actually there," she said. "I really liked using it and it will be great for students wanting experience of clinical management.”

The mannequins are used for simulation training, in which nursing students learn and practice the skills they will use in real-life, such as performing chest compressions if a patient has had a heart attack.

Professor Petford himself played the part of a nursing student on the launch day, donning a Bluetooth stethoscope which allows the wearer to ‘hear’ a variety of medical issues.

The mannequins can also be ‘hooked up’ to life-saving equipment, such as ECG (heart rate) monitors, increasing the reality of the ‘on the ward’ experience.

They will be used by adult, child, learning disability and mental health nursing students, but the new facilities will be available to other health students, such as paramedic science as well as health professionals who are already qualified and want to top-up or extend their advanced clinical skills.