Objectives Building on our systematic review and a broader review of the virtual reality (VR) literature, we propose a conceptual framework on different applications of VR for health professional education.
Method VR, a fast-developing technology used in different fields, is increasingly employed in health professional education. In our recent systematic review on VR for health professional education, we encountered various methodological and conceptual challenges. Most importantly, there is a lack of relevant conceptual framework that would capture the diversity of VR applications in healthcare education and inform pertinent research in this area. We address the lack of conceptual clarity around VR usage by exploring how VR is applied in the area of health professional education.
Results Focusing primarily on the type and scope of educational content, we see all VR content as being crudely categorised into VR focusing on space, individuals, objects, structure or their combination. We differentiate macro, meso and micro VR and examine how different VR features and health professional education areas match these three VR types. Macro VR consists of educational resources focusing on environment and human interaction. Meso VR comprises of educational content on the anatomy of the human body. Micro VR includes educational resources on miniscule objects including microscopic anatomical structures, tissues, cells, molecules and atoms. The available literature predominantly focuses on meso VR and anatomy training.
Conclusions There is scope for further exploration on the application of macro and micro VR content, as well as a combination of all three, in health professional education, in particular for development of non-technical competencies in healthcare professionals.
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