The Ahead Journal


A Review of Inclusive Education
& Employment Practices ISSN 2009-8286

Creating the Virtual Hospital Room for teaching, learning and assessment of Healthcare Skills

Mary Walsh O'Shea

Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board


About the Author

In conversations, great ideas can emerge, and I have always valued conversations with adult learners to evaluate, reflect and discuss how we as education providers can make the teaching and learning environment more accessible, efficient, and effective. A couple of years ago in a conversation with a group of part-time learners who were coming towards the end of their QQI Level 5 Healthcare Support Programme, a suggestion was made by a learner about the idea of having a hospital room in the Further Education and Training Centre as a way for them to ‘feel the experience of working in a hospital’, while also having the teacher there as a guide. I agreed that this would be a great addition to our centres, however, I knew that to get a hospital room in each of our FET centres might be a challenge to our resources.

A few months prior to this discussion, I had my first experience with virtual reality. During this experience, all my senses were alerted to how this technology could enhance teaching and increase engagement for learners. I continued to have an internal debate with myself about how this could be implemented into our education and training programmes.  In that minute, when the learner spoke about the hospital room, my mind was seeing a virtual hospital room where learners could experience the feel and sounds of a hospital. I asked the learners how they would feel about a virtual hospital room. I explained about virtual reality and how it worked. None of them had experienced this technology. I spoke with their teacher, and we discussed what kind of tasks we could build into the immersive experience. We decided on two scenarios that are vital for all healthcare assistants, that would be interactive and engaging for the learners to carry out in the virtual hospital room.  These two scenarios aligned with skills demonstrations that the learners need to carry out in two modules of the QQI Level 5 Healthcare Support Programme and these two scenarios are

  • Carry out a care check on a patient
  • Carry out a bed bath on a patient

My first step was to research the benefits of using virtual reality as a learning tool. Everything that I found only reinforced my thoughts on the addition of this kind of technology to the teaching and learning environment. In 2009, Pantelidis wrote about virtual reality having the potential to make a significant impact at every level of education, leading learners to new discoveries, as well as motivating, encouraging, and exciting them. Through virtual reality, learners can actively engage in the learning environment, feeling a strong sense of presence and integration within the environment itself.

The next step was to create the storyboard for the content. For this, I collaborated with a Healthcare tutor.  Each individual step of a care check and bed bath had to be identified and listed.  I had to put forward my funding proposal and once this was secured, I worked with our Procurement Officer in putting together an e-tender. Work began on the development of the VR content in September 2022.

The ultimate objective was to create two distinct scenarios within a virtual hospital room to facilitate teaching, learning and assessment for learners. To ensure that we adhered to quality assurance standards, a member of WWETB’s quality team sat in on development meetings. As we were planning on using the virtual space to assess a task, we needed to build in certain elements and stages which demonstrated the learner was carrying out the task based on the brief and the marking scheme.

An essential requirement I set down in the e-tender was that the learner would have an onboarding session to give them time to practice and learn the task before they were examined on it. The company we worked with was a Waterford based company called Emagine and they put forward the idea of three modes which included:

Training mode

This mode includes visual and auditory prompts to help teach the learners about the correct steps to follow and can be practiced independently any time.  They can also go back to a tablet within the immersive environment and press help which will provide a written prompt of what they should be doing.

Revision mode

This mode enables practice to carry out the task again without visual and auditory prompts and this can also be practiced independently any time.  The learner can still avail of the help button on the virtual tablet.

Examination mode

This mode does not include prompts, and is only accessible through the control app on a laptop when in an exam environment.

The control app device can externally display users in the VR scenarios and can also record the session to video with audio. This recording will be used as evidence of the completion of a skills demonstration.

Using the controllers

During our development meetings, we also decided that onboarding would need to include a tutorial which would demonstrate the correct use of controllers. This was developed by Emagine and put into our VR App. Along with this, and to be inclusive of all learners, we will have a physical handout diagram of the controller with labels. For our learners, this will assist the navigation aspect of the technology. Learners will also be given a handout on the sequence of events within each scenario. While a training and revision mode is within the app, we want to ensure all individual learning styles are included.  Our FET Access and Inclusion Officer was involved at the initial stages of the development of the content, giving advice about the representation of content within the immersive environment and the navigation of the technology itself. New technologies are great and innovative, but they should not be a barrier to learning and all effort should be made to ensure ease of use and navigation for all learners.

Student using headset and handheld controls to navigate virtual environment programme on computer

Fig 1. Student using headset and handheld controllers to navigate virtual learning environment programme


It has been a long journey to get us to where we will now be using this in our classrooms in late February 2024. Testing the software, checking VR content was correct and getting teachers and learners to navigate the technology were all part of the journey. Feedback along the way helped us make some necessary changes to ensure a quality end-user experience.  For me, the implementation is as significant as the development. Correct implementation means teachers and learners are comfortable using it and have been supported in how to use it. For this reason, we will start off incorporating VR into single modules as a pilot programme. This will allow us to gauge the time that learners need to become familiar with the controllers and navigating within the virtual environment.

For the healthcare learner, this technology allows them to learn and practice new skills in a safe environment. They will have an opportunity to practice the skill as many times as they want in the training and revision mode. However, I am aware that some learners may not want to carry out a skills demonstration with this technology due to the possibility of motion sickness or they may simply prefer traditional methods of learning. As an education provider, we will continue to be flexible and accommodate different learning preferences. The learner will have the choice to engage with this technology or complete traditional skills demonstrations.

Below is a short screen recording I made of the virtual hospital room, which will show the layout, with me carrying out some tasks.



Pantelidis, V. (2009). Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in Education and Training Courses and a Model to Determine When to Use Virtual Reality. Themes in Science and Technology Education, 2.

Search AHEAD Journal


Follow AHEAD

  • Follow AHEAD on Twitter
  • Join AHEAD on Facebook
  • See AHEAD on YouTube
  • Link in with AHEAD on Linked In

Get Email Updates 

Ilikecake Ltd
This article appeared in the AHEAD Journal. Visit for more information