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Kathleen Gaskill Bappert

NUR470: Community and Population Health
Best Enhanced
“Virtual reality simulates home visits”
- Kathleen Gaskill Bappert -

In a world of shrinking Public Health Nursing clinical placements, yet increasingly complex family and community health challenges, NUR470’s virtual reality simulation provides students an alternative to real life experiences. Students experience real life situations within the safety net of virtual reality and learn from their mistakes.

Before participating in the simulation, students are shown a videotape in class of a visit to the Querilo family by an experienced Public Health Nurse. The video gives some preliminary information about the family. As a group the students then discuss what information they already have and prepare for the first home visit.

Students experience the virtual reality home visits as a clinical group of eight students. They make four virtual home visits as pairs to Spartan Health Island in Second Life using the Public Health Nurse avatars that they have created. They interact using the chat and voice tools with one or more of the family member’s avatars played by either a simulated patient or the clinical instructor.

As each pair makes their visit to the Querilo home on Spartan Health Island, the other six students observe and listen to the visit using other computer monitors. Ideally, the observations take place in a separate room with the computer image projected onto a large screen and the voices broadcast on speakers. Students are instructed to ask the family for permission to conduct a family assessment for the purpose of connecting them with any resources in the community they might find helpful. Students have time between each visit to discuss the content and process of the visits and to prepare for subsequent visits. Suggestions are made by the clinical instructor and their peers.

A general discussion follows the last home visit. Since there is no grade for the conduct of the visits, a non-threatening atmosphere for a discussion of lessons learned, mistakes made, and suggestions for how particular situations could have been handled differently are easily made. Students and the clinical instructor can reinforce positive communication skills along with suggestions for improvements.

A standardized method for avatar creation and orientation to the virtual reality environment is used to access Spartan Health Island. Students use their university single sign-on identification to authenticate to the avatar creation portal. Students’ avatars created through the portal are immediately transported to Spartan Health Island when logging in to Second Life. This keeps the island restricted to only avatars created through the portal with university identification. Avatars logging in for the first time land at the Orientation pods. Landing for subsequent logins depends on the user-specified location settings in Second Life.

The virtual reality experience provides a good way for students to prepare for actual home visits. The clinical instructors liked being able to “accompany” students on their visits and see first-hand their interactions, give them cues, suggestions to use, guiding and directing without taking over. Students thought that the virtual visit was a good way to practice doing a home visit, but should not take the place of a live one.


Nancy Ambrose Gallagher, College of Nursing Clinical Faculty, NUR 470 Instructor

Elaine Scribner, College of Nursing Clinical Faculty, NUR 470 Instructor

Nancy Schmitt, College Of Nursing AISS Staff, Director

Jeanette McWaters, College Of Nursing AISS Staff, Instructional Designer

Andrew Greger, College Of Nursing AISS Staff, Instructional Media Technician

Tony Beyers, Teaching and Learning Support, IT Services, Shibboleth Authentication Setup

BJ McPhall, Teaching and Learning Support, IT Services, Portal Set-Up