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AdventHealth University: Where Virtual Training Improves Real Care

Educators at AdventHealth University are transforming the delivery of patient care with equal parts technology, empathy and a focus on the future of medicine.

Well before the pandemic, the school was a leader in health care education. By applying science and the practice of whole-person care, they develop medical professionals with uncommon compassion.

For two decades, AHU has embraced online learning; its e-learning includes a 100% virtual option for seven degrees, including four master’s programs. In 2016, AHU’s Immersive Technologies Lab (ITL) began exploring virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video projects to supplement in-person education and explore solutions to unique health care challenges.

“This is a game-changer in health care education,” says ITL founder Dan Lim, Ph.D., AHU’s vice president of educational technology and innovation. “VR, AR and 360-degree video are providing an experiential way to train students and imbue them with empathy, compassion and experience.”

Under the leadership of AHU President Edwin Hernández, Ph.D., projects reach many of the increasingly critical touch-points of the health care experience. In December, its VR Command Center created in partnership with Full Sail University was named most innovative solution at an “Iron Dev” competition. The application will allow health care providers to make real-time decisions to streamline distribution and allocation of resources, from staffing to equipment — all from the cloud.

A pilot with Apple deployed iPad Pros, providing students and professors with a single platform and standard empowering them to retrieve, review and address patient needs in real-time from the bedside.

AHU realizes the human touch remains critical to wellness. A recent two-year study assigned students to virtually join as chaplains visited or “made rounds” with hospital patients. This, and a similar effort working with autistic patients, was so successful, administrators faced scheduling challenges. So AHU staged mock encounters using professors, chaplains, actual autistic individuals, and actors playing the role of patient. Shot in 360-degree video, students wearing Oculus headsets saw the “spiritual experience” from the patient’s perspective. Some were moved to tears.

“One student said she finally understood the difference between sympathy and empathy,” says Brandon Baker, Director of ITL. “This is an invaluable, spiritual experience that you cannot teach in the classroom.”

AHU’s digital approach touches almost every element of the student experience. For its nurse anesthetist program, VR augments the operating room visit, allowing efficiencies in scheduling. With many of the applications, if students want a refresher, they can replay the video. Portable X-ray technology allows students beyond the hospital walls to view digital images in VR. Nursing clinicals once paired students with a preceptor over a 12-hour shift in the hospital. Now cloud-based clinicals improve the student-teacher ratio, while reducing idle time during the shift.

VR helps pediatric patients and their parents reduce anxiety leading up to a hospital visit by allowing them to meet the medical team, experience potential procedures and view the facilities.

The solutions can have an immediate and lasting impact. Each year, some 9,000 patients die and $40 billion is wasted from prescription and dispensing errors. AHU’s Pyxis™ application trains students to virtually retrieve the correct patient drugs securely.

With instructional space and time precious, this “blended environment” can improve student competence, which advances AHU’s mission of developing skilled professionals who live the healing values of Christ.

“Research shows that if health care providers are more empathetic, patient satisfaction rises and patients heal faster,” Dr. Lim says. “This experiential component cannot be taught, but this vicarious experience can be transformational.”

AdventHealth University is a leader in health care education, transforming the science and practice of whole-person care and developing professionals with uncommon compassion. The University seeks to develop skilled professionals who live the healing values of Christ. AHU’s undergraduate, graduate, and online programs include Biomedical Sciences, Nursing (BSN), Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Health Sciences, Nurse Anesthesia, Occupational Therapy, Nuclear Medicine, Healthcare Administration, Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, and Radiologic Technology.

Learn more at www.ahu.edu.