November 7, 2011

Virtual technology prepares Johns Hopkins University nurses for reality

Virtual 3-D technology is the latest innovative, state-of-the-art instruction method that will prepare Johns Hopkins nurses to be leaders of tomorrow. The technology, known as Second Life, will provide simulation scenarios allowing faculty and preceptors to practice real-life situations on virtual “patients” and “nursing students” without the anxiety of working with actual human beings.

A $664,000 grant from the Nurse Support Program II over the next three years will allow the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins Hospital, to develop and test six core clinical faculty/preceptor online self-paced orientation modules expected to be completed by June 2012.

These modules will examine preceptor foundations, communication, clinical reasoning, educator challenges and creation of a caring culture. Between June 2012 and June 2014, the modules will be implemented, tested, evaluated and eventually incorporated into the orientation schedules of nursing schools and hospitals across the country.

Sarah “Jodi” Shaefer, an assistant professor, is lead investigator, with associate dean for academic affairs Pamela Jeffries and Leah Yoder, assistant director of the central nursing program at JHH, as co-investigators.

“Simulation has been used to train and instruct several high-risk occupations, so it stands to reason that nurses would incorporate that technology to teach our teachers,” Shaefer said. “It also affords faculty the opportunity to experience various learning situations.”

Once the Second Life simulation is operational, faculty and preceptors will have avatars (virtual representations of themselves) and immerse themselves in a variety of learning situations.

“Right now, hands-on virtual instruction is still a novelty to most people. We want to change that dynamic by expanding its use and making exceptional technology a standard instruction tool,” Shaefer said.