Home Metaverse A Look at Five VR and AI Projects for Training Healthcare Workers at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences – Ryan Schultz

A Look at Five VR and AI Projects for Training Healthcare Workers at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences – Ryan Schultz

One of the virtual reality labs being used to train nursing students in the College of Nursing at the University of Manitoba

As many of my readers already well know, I am the computer science and agriculture librarian at the Jim Peebles Science and Technology Library at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and I have been writing about “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse” (as the tagline of the RyanSchultz.com blog states) since July 31st, 2017. I have now been actively and avidly reporting on this space on my blog for almost seven years, sharing news and events in the rapidly-evolving metaverse!

So it was that I had already written on my blog (albeit somewhat in passing) about the University of Manitoba’s College of Nursing, which has been training new nursing students using the UbiSim software since the Fall 2022 term. Here’s a one-minute YouTube video about that work:

However, today I wanted to give you all an update on some newer innovations in the use of VR (and AI!) in healthcare education at my employer, the University of Manitoba.

Yes, the RadyVerse launch even had a cake! Carbs take priority, people!!! 😉

One month ago, on Friday, March 15th, 2024, I attended a special afternoon event located at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne Campus (the downtown, health-sciences-focused campus, next door to Winnipeg’s main hospital complex, the Health Sciences Centre). This event was the official launch of a new initiative of the Max Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, called the RadyVerse. According to the announcement:

The RadyVerse is an exciting initiative of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences that combines virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence and machine learning to create immersive and controlled simulations for students, educators and clinicians. The integration aims to empower an interprofessional community, promote collaboration and enhance skill development in a risk-free setting.

Dr. Nicole Harder speaking at the RadyVerse launch event (with Dr. Lawrence Gillman, seated)

In an article published in UM Today, the University of Manitoba’s online newspaper, one of the speakers at the launch described the purpose of the event, and the benefits of using VR in the College of Nursing programs:

Dr. Nicole Harder, associate dean, undergraduate programs and professor in the College of Nursing,  and Mindermar Professor in Human Simulation, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, described the launch event as a “technology fair” that will give faculty, staff and students the opportunity to participate in interactive demonstrations.

“People will be able to try on the VR headsets and step into the immersive world. We’ll also have monitors where we can screencast and show others what they see in the VR, and how this will be used as an educational tool,” Harder said.

“VR has been used in other universities for some time, but not to the same extent. In the College of Nursing, it is embedded into our curriculum.”

The college recently expanded its VR simulation training to its programming in The Pas and Thompson through a partnership with the University College of the North. This allows students from different parts of the province to work together on a simulated clinical case in one virtual room.

As more disciplines become involved, interprofessional teams will not even need to be in the same physical space when collaborating, Harder said.

“VR is a great tool for learning clinical decision-making, problem solving, empathy and communication.”

One of my Libraries colleagues tries out the UbiSim nursing simulation software
Kimberly Workum of the College of Nursing, at the Bodyswaps demonstration workstation

The launch event had five stations intended to showcase how the faculty is using virtual reality and artificial intelligence to educate and train the next generation of healthcare professionals: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, rehabilitation therapists, etc. U of M faculty, staff, students, reporters, and the general public were invited to try out the technology for themselves, and get a taste of how it works. The five stations were:

  • The previously mentioned UbiSim VR software, used for training nurses in simulated but realistic nursing scenarios, where students can practice their skills within a safe and controlled environment;
  • Bodyswaps, another initiative of the College of Nursing, which provides experiential, soft-skills training (e.g. how to talk with patients and family members in various scenarios);
  • An artificial intelligence (AI) tool called OSCE GPT, which uses a specially-trained large language model (LLM) to simulate patients, in order to allow healthcare professionals to practice their patient interview skills, and give them feedback on how to improve it;
  • Lumeto, social-VR-based roleplay software for up to 4 users at once, used to train healthcare workers in interprofessional collaboration skills; and
  • Acadicus (a VR program for education which I had written about in 2019 on my blog), which is being used by Dr. Lawrence Gillman. According to the UM Today article:
People could try out the Acadeicus software, being used by Dr. Gillman’s team to train doctors

One of the stations will be led by Dr. Lawrence Gillman, associate professor of surgery at the Max Rady College of Medicine and director of the Clinical Learning and Simulation Program at Bannatyne campus.

Gillman has a crisis-based simulation and trauma resuscitation program in development that he will soon be using to teach his residents. At the launch, he’ll demonstrate what trainers and learners will be able to do.

“This VR program is basically a playground where you can create your own sim lab in a virtual environment. You can create whatever scenarios or places you want, and people can participate together in person, or even from a distance,” Gillman said.

“Basically, we create medical crises that people can practice in and then make mistakes in simulation rather than real life.”

A user tries out Lumeto

I visited all five workstations, and had an ample opportunity to test out most of these applications first-hand, and speak to my U of M coworkers about these projects. In fact, you can even catch a glimpse of me standing behind Dr. Gillman as he guides a user through the Acadicus software, in the video attached to this CTV News report of the RadyVerse event (see the red arrow in the screen capture I took from that video):

(I didn’t even know about this until a friend who watched CTV News told me!)

There’s just so much exciting stuff going on right now! There are so many VR initiatives taking place on campus, oftentimes in isolation, which is a shame. For example, I wonder how many of the healthcare professionals at the RadyVerse launch were aware that the UM Libraries is working on setting up a VR lab for faculty, staff, and student use (an initiative which is now well underway). And that the Department of Computer Science also has plans to set up a VR lab for its students. And I believe that the university’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning is also working on something to do with VR…like I said, there’s a lot going on.

Therefore, I hope to be able to use some of my own “soft skills” and abilities to help set up improved communication channels and venues at the university, so we can all learn from each other as we beaver away on our separate projects and programs! I believe that there is much so in-house expertise and experience which we can share with each other. I know that I would benefit from this, and I suspect others would as well. We can all learn from each other.

The RadyVerse event was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about some of the other virtual reality and artifical intelligence work taking place at the University of Manitoba, and I hope to report on future developments in this exciting edtech as it rolls out across campus. These are exciting times to be a VR and AI enthusiast at the University of Manitoba!

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