Virtual reality (VR) combines immersive, scalable technology with engaging and affordable education platforms to provide what many experts believe will become a standard training tool for healthcare providers. In fact, plenty of surgical professionals are already tapping into the benefits of learning through VR.
UConn Health’s Musculoskeletal Institute in Farmington, Conn., one of the nation’s top research facilities, opted to incorporate VR training into its orthopedic residency program at a very fortuitous time — right before COVID-19 temporarily shut down elective procedures. “Like everyone, we were challenged in trying to train surgeons without surgery,” says Lauren E. Geaney, MD, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and program director at UConn Health. “It was a really good opportunity for us to play with the technology and figure out how it would fit with our standard curriculum.”
The VR platform UConn uses places residents in realistic OR environments and allows them to practice their hand-eye coordination and visual spatial awareness in a variety of surgeries. “They can identify parts of procedures they struggle with and work through them until their performance improves,” says Dr. Geaney.
For instance, VR allows residents to break down each segment of a hip fracture repair — determining where to stabilize bones, figuring out where nails and screws should go — so they can focus the bulk of their training where it would benefit them most. Dr. Geaney and her residents call this strategic repetition of targeted training “purposeful practice.”