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March 6, 2024

How Virtual Reality Helps Nursing Students Build Therapeutic Communication Skills


Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

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In the world of nursing, every word and gesture—or lack thereof of—can make a difference. Imagine the times you felt most connected to a nurse who was treating you. Chances are they were making eye contact, facing you attentively with their body, nodding, and validating your experience. This is all a part of therapeutic communication. 

Therapeutic communication is conversing and acting in a way that helps patients feel understood and comfortable. It's about nurses really listening and responding so that patients feel supported and safe. When nurses get this right, it makes a huge difference, making patients happier and helping them on their way to feeling better.

How do nursing students master therapeutic communication with patients and families amongst everything else they have to learn?

The authors of a 2024 study set out to examine the effectiveness of a virtual reality communication simulation in teaching communication skills in fundamentals of nursing practicum. The researchers found that nursing students who trained in virtual reality had significantly higher communication abilities and lower levels of stress. They concluded that VR is “acceptable and worthwhile for training nursing students to develop communication abilities.”

Immersive virtual reality (VR), like UbiSim—a platform dedicated entirely to nursing, can be a huge help on this communication learning journey. Students can practice breaking hard news, calming a patient with anxiety down, and communicating with family members who are worrying. 

The Importance of Therapeutic Communication in Nursing

Effective therapeutic communication in nursing is much more than just the words a nurse says. It’s a blend of what you speak, how you express yourself through body language, and the tones you use. 

Reflecting on insights from research, such as Albert Mehrabian's groundbreaking study on body language, it’s clear that a big part of our communication—55%—is non-verbal. This highlights how important gestures, facial expressions, and posture are in making a lasting impression.

For nurses, how you present yourself through body language plays a role in how patients and their families perceive and trust you. It's not just about the information you share; it's about how you share it. 

Nurses can practice all of this in VR. 

VR’s Role in Development of Therapeutic Communication Skills

A recent study suggests that VR practice should be delivered as early as possible in fundamentals of nursing practice courses and before the fundamentals of nursing practicum so as to facilitate the learning of effective communication. 

Through immersive VR training, UbiSim creates a safe, engaging environment where mistakes are just stepping stones to mastery. 

Scenarios align with industry standards, are created by nurse educators, and are designed to mirror real-life situations. They provide hands-on experience without real-world pressure. Whether a nursing student is breaking bad news or celebrating a patient's recovery, VR enables students to practice all aspects of that communication. 

VR simulations can be tailored to a wide range of scenarios, from routine check-ups to high-pressure emergency situations. This versatility ensures that nursing students can experience a broad spectrum of patient interactions, making them well-prepared for the diverse challenges they will face in the real world.

The immersive nature of VR means that students can learn in a more holistic way, experiencing the emotional and psychological dimensions of patient care, not just the technical aspects. This approach not only produces more competent nurses but also more compassionate ones.

Final Thoughts

Virtual reality offers a dynamic and innovative approach to nursing education by providing a safe, controlled environment for students to practice the soft skills of therapeutic communication in addition to learning technical skills.

It's an exciting time for nursing educators and students, as they explore the possibilities of this cutting-edge technology in preparing the next generation of nurses.

Interested in trying UbiSim in your healthcare institution?
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Ginelle Testa
UbiSim Story Teller

As an integral center of UbiSim's content team, Ginelle pens stories on the rapidly changing landscape of VR in nursing simulation. Ginelle is committed to elevating the voices of practicing nurses, nurse educators, and program leaders who are making a difference.

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