Virtual reality decreases nursing students’ unease in treating anxiety-prone patients

By Carol Davis

Full-immersion virtual reality simulation decreased nursing students’ anxiety levels when communicating with anxious patients, says new research published in the September issue of Clinical Simulation in Nursing.

With anxiety as the most prevalent mental health disorder in the United States, nurses do not feel adequately prepared to care for anxious patients, according to the research by Tanae A. Traister, assistant dean of Nursing & Health Sciences at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Traister researched the use of virtual reality simulation in nursing education to help lessen nursing students’ own anxiety in dealing with anxious patients.

Traister conducted the study by recruiting students in Penn College’s pre-licensure associate degree and bachelor’s degree RN majors to completed two full-immersion virtual reality simulations involving a patient suffering from anxiety.

Traister evaluated the students’ own anxiety levels before and after the first simulation and again after the second to identify and measure their anxiety knowing they would be caring for a patient experiencing acute anxiety.

“The goal for my research was to contribute to the currently small but growing body of knowledge surrounding the use of full-immersion virtual reality simulation in nursing education,” Traister said.

As nurses spend the most time with patients, they are most likely to encounter those suffering from high anxiety, according to Traister.

“Unfortunately, many anxiety sufferers go undiagnosed or untreated because of a perceived negative societal stigma, personal embarrassment, or normalization of symptoms,” Traister wrote. “Those who attempt to seek treatment for their anxiety symptoms may perceive their encounters with healthcare providers as unsupportive or dismissive; therefore, avoiding care.”

However, nurses who are more comfortable treating anxiety-prone patients will have a more therapeutic nurse-patient relationship, the research notes.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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