User experiences of medical students with 360-degree virtual reality applications to prepare them for the clerkships

Arianne D. Pieterse*, Beerend P. Hierck, Peter G.M. de Jong, Thomas F. Ginn, Esther C. Hamoen, Marlies E.J. Reinders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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For medical students, the transition from the preclinical to the clinical phase of their curriculum (clerkships) can result in increased levels of stress and anxiety. This is partly caused by low self-perception of preparedness. By using 360° video-based virtual reality it is possible to provide learners virtual access to clinical situations ahead of time. This technique can provide active and contextual user experiences and offers opportunities to demonstrate both behavioral skills and subject knowledge. We developed two 360° video-based virtual reality applications for medical students transitioning to the clerkships. In this study, we describe the development and evaluated the user experiences. Two virtual reality applications were developed for use in a small group learning session. One of the applications is an interactive virtual tour of a hospital ward, in which learners explore the Internal Medicine ward and learn about the roles of different health care professionals and their mutual interactions. In each room, the learners listen to a voice-over and look at hotspots to gather additional information. The other application has been developed to train students in observing (un)professional behavior of healthcare providers in their daily activities. An evaluation was performed by an anonymous explorative questionnaire with open and closed questions (Likert scales) regarding the user experience and cybersickness symptoms. In our study, 171 students used the applications and completed the questionnaire. For 63% of the respondents, this was their first experience with a virtual reality headset. Qualitative analysis showed that students evaluated the learning method as realistic, informative and enjoyable. Most students evaluated virtual reality as a good (59%) or excellent (26%) tool for learning. Forty-five percent of the students experienced physical discomfort, such as nausea, dizziness, headache and disorientation. In most cases, these complaints were mild, although a small number experienced severe nausea (n = 6) or severe headache (n = 2). Students suggested several areas of improvement including increase of display resolution and decrease of ambient noise causing distraction. 360° video-based virtual reality can successfully be implemented in the medical curriculum to create a realistic learning experience to prepare students for the clerkships.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVirtual Reality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Jan 2023

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