Hong Kong Polytechnic University employs VR to enhance nursing education


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has recently developed a virtual learning system that uses virtual reality technology to enhance nursing education amid the ongoing global pandemic.

PolyU’s Virtual Hospital learning system is said to offer an “innovative experiential approach to nursing education”.


Touted to be the first-of-its-kind in Hong Kong, the VR-based learning system simulates a real-life hospital ward. With a total of 11 games, it provides five learning scenarios, namely Clinical Practicum Orientation, Challenges of Delirium, Managing Multitasks, Prevention of Errors, and Potential Heart Attack. 

According to a press release, the system has more than 1,200 combinations of randomised situations and multiple choices.

The system displays students’ responses and decisions on a television monitor, as well as records their interaction with their virtual patients for review purposes.

Moreover, it also allows teachers to conveniently track students’ progress and evaluate learning outcomes by using game data and its automated assessment function.


The research team behind Virtual Hospital has designed the learning system specifically for nursing students.

Dr Kitty Chan, a senior teaching fellow at PolyU School of Nursing who co-leads the research team, noted that most existing VR learning systems are “are skill and procedure-focused, and adopt a single patient management setting.”

Through Virtual Hospital, students are being trained to handle multiple beds and simultaneously take care of multiple patients. The system also generates unexpected incidents and clinical pitfalls to test students’ abilities in applying their working knowledge and in prioritising nursing tasks in the midst of disruptions within a limited time. 

“Through the VR experiential learning, students can improve the soft skills that are essential for their clinical practice, including situation awareness, flexibility to handle emergencies, as well as decision making and communication skills,” said Dr Chan.

The Virtual Hospital has been used by over 450 nursing students since its launch in January.

Dr Justina Liu, co-research lead and associate professor of the same nursing school, said she hopes the Virtual Hospital “can further help our students master the skills that are required for clinical nursing and most importantly for reducing errors in actual clinical situations”.

She shared that they plan to incorporate additional “interprofessional and interdisciplinary elements” into the learning system in the future and introduce Virtual Hospital to other nursing institutions across the Greater Bay Area.


Other medical institutions across Asia-Pacific have developed VR-based programmes to enable uninterrupted training amid the pandemic. Last year, the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan unveiled its cloud-based clinical education platform featuring Jolly Good’s Operation Cloud VR system, which provides a virtual view of live procedures through a 360-degree VR camera. 

In Australia, four tertiary hospitals have been using Vantari VR‘s training platform for critical care with the aim to cut down training time. The same VR startup launched late last year a new right heart catheter training programme on its platform.

The National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore and VR medical content platform Kyalio are currently collaborating to develop neurosurgery training modules as part of their research collaboration. They aim to build a library of at least 100 neurosurgery training modules on Kyalio, covering a diverse set of cases.


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