AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Death can be hard to talk about and witness, even for the healthcare professional at times. Augusta University wants to help prepare students for what textbooks can’t always teach in a unique way.

"We continue to teach patient bedside manner, but not in fully immersive reality. This is the first time we’ve done this here.” said Lynsey Steinberg, Innovation Specialist.

Augusta University is now using virtual reality technology in end of life care education. The method rose from the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think we provide a great education for our future nursing students, but COVID-19 really showed us something was missing. One of the things our new graduates, and even seasoned nurses had said, they weren’t prepared for the amount of death and the emotions that were experienced during COVID.” Elena Prendergast, Professor of Nursing.

Thanks to a collaboration between the College of Nursing and the Center of Instructional Innovation, students can learn about the sensitive subject in a controlled environment.

“We don’t get do-overs with this. We can’t take eight nurses into the room with someone who is dying for a learning experience no matter how helpful it will be.” said Prendergast. 

It’s called LIVE, or Learning Through Interprofessional Virtual Experiences.

“Students are able to experience this from the perspective as if they were inside the actual experience.” said Steinberg.

First, students learn the difference between sympathy and empathy. Next, immersion through virtual reality.

“They will then put on the headset and go through scenarios where they are addressed by patients and families in a scene and they will be able to utilize all the skills they just learned.” said Steinberg.

Classroom implementation begins this fall. However, it’s still in early stages.

“We have such a need for additional headsets so that multiple students can go through this experience at the same time.” said Steinberg.

Plus, the university wants to see this expand beyond Augusta.

"What we hope is to be able to develop a product that could be disseminated through our USG schools and then nationally or internationally to be able to help generate the research and training future providers.” said Prendergast. 

Copyright 2022 WFXG. All rights reserved.