The shortage of healthcare workers in the United States is a significant problem that is affecting the care of millions of Americans and has caught the attention of U.S. senators. In March 2023, the healthcare sector added 34,000 jobs, which is lower than the average monthly gain of 54,000 over the previous six months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last year, the American Hospital Association declared the shortage of qualified nurses at the nation’s hospitals a “national emergency.” The lack of qualified nurses is particularly concerning because research shows that hospitals facing nursing shortages experience higher rates of nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction, which in turn leads to higher mortality rates for patients.
To address the nursing shortage, we must first increase the number of nursing students. However, nursing student enrollment in community colleges has fallen since the start of the pandemic. Despite this, a recent study on nursing shortages in Oregon found that there are still many qualified applicants looking to become nurses. The challenge is finding enough resources to train them.
Healthcare programs face difficulties in hiring and retaining faculty, providing clinical placements, and updating and expanding their facilities. One solution could be to leverage newer technologies such as the metaverse to alleviate the strain on limited educational resources, allowing virtual academic settings to be used for training.
Simulation is the future of education
The metaverse is already having a significant impact on the daily experiences of workers and learners, whether we like it or not. According to research firm Gartner, by 2026, a quarter of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, education, commerce, and entertainment.
The immersive technologies that make up the metaverse are changing the way we teach and learn new skills in a world of work that is constantly changing. From exploring careers to cutting-edge career development, the metaverse’s immersive technologies are revolutionizing education.
As a nurse who has worked in a variety of roles throughout my career, I understand the importance of leadership and community in nursing. Meeting patients where they are and providing them with the care they need, regardless of available resources, is crucial to the nursing profession. Immersive technologies can support the teaching of these essential lessons and provide the critical hands-on skills that all nurses require.
As state and education leaders look for new ways to address the healthcare shortage, immersive learning technologies will undoubtedly grow in popularity. Over 30 states have passed laws permitting nursing schools to use simulations as part of required clinical training hours for nursing licensing exams.
Immersive technologies, such as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, are becoming standard modes of instruction for health care education. Health care educators can now use these technologies to simulate complex social and patient interactions, providing students with opportunities to replicate the clinical, interpersonal, and decision-making dynamics required in today’s health care workplace.
A modern healthcare method
National University was one of the first five institutions to receive funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to advance the use of virtual reality (VR) as a teaching tool. This technology enables nursing students to safely learn important techniques and procedures, such as listening to the sounds of patients’ lungs and taking blood pressure readings. It also enables students to take a virtual tour of underserved neighborhoods and interact with digital residents who may need care.
Through this immersive setting, students can learn about the community and the local resources available to help underserved residents. This simulation experience closely approximates real-world situations, allowing students to gain experience and understanding without exposure to unnecessary risks.
The metaverse offers opportunities to enhance traditional methods of health care education, and it can provide unlimited opportunities for students to practice and improve their skills. The use of immersive learning experiences, including virtual reality, can help to address the nursing shortage and significantly improve the quality of care provided by enabling students to practice until they achieve skill mastery.