Nurturing Tomorrow’s Healers: UA Little Rock’s Virtual Reality Tour Prepares Nursing Students for College

Nursing students who received the Pat Walker scholarship pose in groups and demonstrate the technological capabilities of the robotic SIM Lab mannequins. Photo by Benjamin Krain
Dr. Sloan Davidson, director of the School of Nursing at UA Little Rock, leads a group of nursing students through a simulation in the Center for Simulation Innovation. Photo by Ben Krain.

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In an innovative initiative blending education and technology, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has created an immersive virtual tour of the School of Nursing’s internationally recognized Center for Simulation Innovation to help prepare the next generation of nurses for college life.

The Nursing 360 Project is a collaborative project between the School of Nursing and UA Little Rock’s Emerging Analytics Center, a research center focused on immersive visualization, augmented and virtual reality, and interactive technologies. The immersive experience is designed to welcome and familiarize prospective and incoming nursing students into the dynamic world of college and laboratory sessions by providing a preview of their college journey and offering a virtual backstage pass to the high-tech simulation center where their hands-on learning will come to life.

“This initiative plays a vital role in student success for our incoming nursing students,” said Dr. Sloan Davidson, director of the School of Nursing at UA Little Rock. “It’s particularly important for our first-generation college students, who might find the high-tech aspects of the simulation lab a bit overwhelming. We believe that familiarizing them with the simulation setting through this virtual tour will ease their anxiety and better prepare them for their courses.”

This project is a great example of cross-disciplinary collaboration, offering valuable experiences to students from both areas. More than 20 UA Little Rock faculty, students, staff, and alumni were involved in the development and creation of the Nursing 360 Project.

“This project is a wonderful example of cross-disciplinary collaboration where our students are getting valuable hand-on experience,” said Thomas Coffin, operations manager at the Emerging Analytics Center. “This is a comprehensive program that teaches project management and application development, skills that will carry well into their future careers.”

Carlos Ochoa, a graduate student in computer science from Thousand Oaks, California, served as an artist and web developer on the project and worked on user interface design and the website.

“Being able to work with other departments at the university is probably one of the most fascinating parts on this whole project,” Ochoa said. “I was able to develop my hands-on experience with graphic design and web skills, as well as developing my adaptation skills based on needs and priorities. Being able to work with everyone and communicate as a team is a skill I will take to the future.”

Joanna Hall, director of simulation, said the virtual tour is also a great way to connect with members of the community who want to learn more about the healthcare simulations available at the Center for Simulation Innovation.

“We do a ton of tours every year, not just with prospective students, but with people from the community who are interested in seeing some of the great things we do in our simulation center,” Hall said. “The Emerging Analytics Center was fabulous, and we were happy to work with a forward-thinking group who is pushing the envelope when it comes to technological innovation. It was a match made in heaven, and we are looking forward to more opportunities to collaborate in the future.”

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