In pictures: virtual reality takes future doctors in the midst of trauma

The Simulation Centre of the University of Tartu has started to use a virtual reality device allowing future doctors to experience trauma situations they will have to face in their job and solve them in a safe environment.

Riho Runnel, Specialist of Simulation Studies of the University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine, says that many doctors, especially young ones, do not see trauma situations every day and may thus find them intimidating and stressful.

“To do well in a critical trauma situation in real life, future doctors, as well as practising ones, should undergo regular training on trauma. It gives experience and confidence before the actual trauma situation, allowing to make the necessary decisions in a critical situation,” explained Runnel.

Different traumas

People interested in trauma care can use the trauma simulator and the Oculus Quest headset to enter the trauma room of the emergency department and choose between various trauma scenarios. For instance, it is possible to deal with a patient who has catastrophic external bleeding due to the amputation of both lower limbs or treat a person who has a massive facial soft-tissue trauma and airway obstruction. Users can also practise dealing with trauma situations involving tension pneumothorax, internal bleeding, traumatic brain injury or COVID-19 patients.

Runnel explained that the aim of using virtual reality is not to train manual skills but to hone the algorithms of trauma treatment. This means the ABCDE approach must be used when dealing with the trauma patient in virtual reality.

“When a trauma patient is brought to the emergency room, a certain set of activities must be performed. These are the activities we aim to rehearse using virtual reality. For instance, the airways must be checked first. If airways are obstructed, the doctor must decide which method to use to open them. In one of the most complicated scenarios, a surgical airway must be established,” described Runnel, adding that at the same time, the doctor must decide about the need for an ultrasound scan or laboratory analyses.

Future developments

The developers of the trauma simulator are creating other scenarios in addition to the emergency room stage. In the future, the virtual reality device will also allow the user to experience the pre-hospital stage, which means taking care of the patient on a battlefield, for instance. Also, a section about a mass casualty incident will be added for practising the initial triage in case of a major accident.

The further developed trauma simulator is planned to be used also for training international trauma response teams. “In that case, each trauma surgeon can stay in their own country and meet their team in virtual reality,” said Runnel, recognising that such a method is particularly suitable during a pandemic, in addition to helping to save time and training costs.

The virtual reality device has reached the Simulation Centre of the University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine in cooperation with the company Exonicus, Inc. that develops the trauma simulator and the Estonian Defence Forces.

See the photos.

Further information:
Riho Runnel
Specialist of Simulation Studies of the University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine
5663 0144
riho.runnel [ät]