Fort Worth UNT Health Science Center Opens Simulation Center With ‘Fully Immersive’ VR Rooms

UNT HSC has opened the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in the state of Texas.

The cutting-edge tech lets students and health care providers practice and learn new skills in the most realistic of environments.

Simulation is a key part of health care education. Now the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth has taken it to a whole new level by opening the first virtual-reality “simulation center” in Texas.

A ribbon-cutting was held Thursday for UNT HSC’s new $6.75 million Regional Simulation Center. It features “immersive simulation spaces” powered by 360-degree virtual-reality projections; 14 realistic-looking examination rooms; VR headset learning experiences; an adaptable procedural skills suite; a daily-living activities suite designed to look like a home’s interior; and assorted team and learning rooms.

“HSC’s Regional Simulation Center will not only improve health care outcomes and patient safety, but this state-of-the-art facility will also act as a beacon to potential medical school students, tech companies, and other entrepreneurs,” said Fort Worth City Council representative Leonard Firestone in a statement. “The center will let business owners know that Fort Worth embraces new ideas, emerging technologies and is a leader in life sciences entrepreneurship. The economic impact of this center could be a game changer for our city as HSC strengthens its position as a premier health care institute.”

‘Cutting-edge technology’

UNT HSC students and staff practice on a mannequin at the new Regional Simulation Center. [Photo: HSC]

“The opening of HSC’s new Regional Simulation Center is truly exciting as it is the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in the state of Texas,” UNT System Chancellor and HSC President Dr. Michael R. Williams said in a statement. “The cutting-edge technology will allow our students and health care providers to practice and learn new skills in the most realistic of environments. This will ultimately benefit patients and increase patient safety.”

The immersive simulation space can plunge students and veteran health care workers into realistic environments, like a ruggedly wooded roadside where a patient must be treated in the wild (as seen in top photo). 

The center is located in a renovated space on the first floor of the Gibson D. Lewis Library at 955 Montgomery St. in Fort Worth. It’s open for training for hospital residency programs, emergency medical service providers, hospital personnel, nursing home staffers, clinical teams, first responders and more, according to UNT HSC.

The “flexibility” to practice…and practice again

Rendering of an AI-powered immersive simulation space in UNT HSC’s Regional Simulation Center. [Video still: HSC]

Karen Meadows, MSN, RN, the program’s director, said in March that one of the lab’s big advantages will be its accessibility to students.

“No student should leave our university and say, ‘I didn’t have an opportunity to be fully prepared for my future experience,’” Meadows said in a statement. “To me, that’s really why the simulation center is here. Some learners take two times through, and they’ve got it down. Others may need eight, and that learner needs the opportunity to come in and practice. The flexibility that this center offers is going to provide that.”

Virtual reality helps learners in several ways

UNT HSC Regional Simulation Center practice areas. [Rendering: HSC]

According to UNT HSC, the medical research community believes virtual reality training helps learners retain information better, make correct clinical decisions, and arrive at those decisions faster than students who only learn through lectures and 2-D simulations. HSC’s newly opened center is joining “a small but growing number of training centers around the country” that incorporate virtual reality into their health care curriculum, HSC says.

In March, Dr. Bharti Chaudhari, simulation director for John Peter Smith Hospital emergency medicine, called HSC’s new center “a dream come true” for her program.

“You couldn’t ask for better training,” Chaudhari said in a statement. “It is as real as possible yet as deliberate and critical as you need it to be. You’re not just teaching rote memorization; you’re teaching concepts, things that teach students how to think critically. When learners leave this area, they’re going to be a good doctor wherever they go.”

Fort Worth Report has a photo gallery of the lab’s opening day unveiling here

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