Can virtual reality play a role in veterinary education? CSU researchers think so – cvmbs. source. colostate. edu

A virtual reality user stands in front of a computer monitor

A virtual reality game that simulates a veterinary clinic was displayed during a Department of Art and Artwork History expo on Sept. 14, 2022. Photos by John Eisele.

You’re a fourth-year veterinary student, and it’s Day 2 of your emergency clinic rotation.  

Before you’ve had time for coffee, the lethargic German shepherd within respiratory distress is rushed through the doors. Under the supervision of your instructor, you make quick decisions: Intubate to help him breathe. Manage his pain with the correct doses of carprofen or methadone. Full body exam, ultrasound plus X-rays. Listen to his heart and lungs. Does he need emergency surgery?

At a veterinary teaching hospital like Colorado State University’s, scenarios like this play out in real life. But soon situations such as this could also happen in the virtual world, through the safe confines associated with a headset and software system.

For the particular last four years, a cross-disciplinary team of CSU researchers has sought to determine whether virtuelle realität has the role to play within veterinary schooling and training. And where better than one of the best vet schools in the globe to find out?

Back in 2018, Clinical Sciences Professor Pedro Boscan and a small group received a grant from the American Veterinary Medical Association to create a proof-of-concept virtual fact prototype with regard to an anesthesiology machine. Two years later, the team received funding from your Office of the Vice President for Research to launch VetVR , a campus-wide initiative that includes clinicians, computer scientists, graphic artists plus engineers and is aimed at developing and testing virtual educational tools for veterinary medicine. VetVR is focused mostly on vet applications, but its goals have expanded since its inception.

“While we are trying to validate virtuelle wirklichkeit plus its potential in higher education, we want to go beyond veterinary medicine, ” said Boscan, who heads the particular anesthesiology department at the James L. Voss Vet Teaching Hospital. “We would like to learn what can be helpful, and what may not be useful. That’s part of the particular research we’ve been doing: ­ W­hat are the disadvantages? How much does it cost? How difficult is it? ”

Faculty member Pedro Boscan coaches an user wearing a virtual reality headset

Professor Pedro Boscan, who leads the VetVR team, guides a volunteer through a veterinary clinic simulator during an art division expo this past fall.

At CSU, the VetVR team is among many digital and augmented reality-based projects exploring future applications from the technology. For example , another group on campus developed the virtual actuality program regarding teaching human anatomy .   The Office of the Vice Chief executive for Study led the expansion of such efforts through a focused initiative that began in 2017, which has spawned other investments in training and research.

Over the last two years, Boscan and the particular VetVR team have been developing a virtual module intended for training veterinary students within anesthesiology basics: How in order to sedate patients, use an anesthesia machine, administer drugs, perform an emergency ultrasound and everything else that goes into real-life medication. Their goal is to produce a digital setting nearly identical to in-classroom and clinic rotation trainings. One day, such the virtual tool could complement classroom equipment, making coaching accessible in order to many more students, plus across distances.

Their efforts are taking place in the same time as a holistic overhaul of CSU’s DVM curriculum, along with expanded facilities . Major updates expected in the next several years include more hands-on experiences in surgeries, a lot more focus on problem-solving and decision-making, plus more robust training within increasingly complex medical systems. The VetVR team thinks virtual reality offers the possible to become part of the modernized suite associated with education equipment, not only to get veterinary medicine but for disciplines that require cognitive and manual skills to problem-solve complicated situations.

Virtual veterinary anesthesia

At the end of the semester last spring, the particular VetVR team tested their latest VR tool simply by recruiting students to voluntarily take a good anesthesiology exam within the virtual setting. These same college students also took the examination in the traditional way in the particular classroom, evaluated in-person by their human instructors. A study team collected data upon the students’ experiences and compared their own performances on the two types of exams.

Lynn Keets is a third-year DVM student that collected data from learners who obtained anesthesiology training in the digital setting. She presented those results at the International Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Symposium in San Antonio in September, and more recently from the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia annual summit in Portland, Oregon.

Keets and the team found that VR increased intellectual load pertaining to the exam. Virtual reality was new to 70% of the particular students surveyed, so the learning curve has been a factor in performance, and the virtual setting might’ve added some complexity in order to the material being tested. However, Boscan said, virtuelle realität eliminates the subjectivity of a professor administering the examination in actual life. “What we know for sure is that professors are nice, and computers are not good, ” Boscan said.

Keets said she thinks upcoming generations associated with learners may be a lot more open to virtual technologies like the ones she plus the group have been exploring. “I think this offers a novel approach, a different learning pedagogy system … Not everyone is adapted to sit in the classroom, therefore in that way, it does add value, ” she stated.

Research is helping bring into focus whether digital reality might be an useful tool meant for educating veterinarians. In their next phase of work, the particular VetVR team will continue exposing student volunteers in order to the virtual anesthesia module. This year, they plan to put their digital tool to an even more rigorous test. “We’ll train them within virtuelle wirklichkeit, and we’ll examine them with a real machine, ” Boscan said.

Moving into the gaming space

While working on veterinary plus anesthesia tasks, the team is dreaming bigger – and that goes back to the scenario from the dying German born shepherd. In tandem with their research, the team has also brought in coders and developers to create a virtual reality game that allows players in order to “treat” a patient in a vet clinic, providing opportunities for complex decision-making plus medical outcomes for individuals.

The VetVR game will soon be available via SteamVR as component of the game studio the group has named Liekos . The experts hope public attention will help them refine the software and improve it designed for later use in educational settings. Their plan will be to release other products through Liekos Studio, such as a VR app for mental health.

VetVR game preview screen

The particular VetVR sport will be available through the SteamVR store. Learn more .  

Cyane Tornatzky, an associate professor in the Department associated with Art and Art History and a VetVR collaborator, is energized by the team’s translational application of an emerging technology.

“In electronic art, we have this long history of things like interactive kiosks, websites as art forms, plus this idea that video games can have serious content, ”   Tornatzky said.

The team provides also already been able to hire some of   Tornatzky’s students, who have the particular necessary skills for translating electronic artwork into cutting-edge technology. “It’s been fun, innovative and hard, ” she mentioned.

The game was created so that anyone – not just veterinary college students – can practice basic veterinary techniques, like examining a patient, administering prescriptions, making diagnoses and ultimately, saving the dog’s life. It’s closer to the particular team’s goal of creating a high-stakes emergency scenario to use within clinical education and learning because it reflects the consequences associated with real decision-making.

Art professor shows users how to play the VetVR game during art expo

Professor Cyane Tornatzky, right, guides users trying out the veterinary medical center game.

Preparing veterinarians for the workplace

In an emergency, or even in an outpatient veterinary center, one wrong decision can lead to catastrophe. Yet that’s exactly why Boscan and others think virtual training just for veterinary medication could help veterinarians be better prepared for that place of work.

“For the long time, I had been looking at how to recreate the stress of being within the clinics, ” Boscan said. “If you’re within an emergency situation, you need to learn how to handle the stress and make important decisions. ”

Within health care settings  – both human plus animal – students have traditionally been trained via rotations, carefully watched by mentors and thrown in to real scenarios as they come with the doors. There’s no substitute for the particular experience of working upon a real patient, Boscan said, and that will carry on.

But exactly what if there was a way to closely recreate all those experiences, outside the high stakes of real life? Digital training could be the answer. It would also provide repeatability. The hundred different scenarios could be practiced 100 times from the same college student. That kind of repeatability doesn’t exist in real existence, Boscan stated.

The group is continuing their quest to explore, confirm and innovate around digital education.   They’ve recently secured a grant from the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, in which they will develop a prototype training component for dairy farmers on using proper personal protective equipment. Through their work, the scientists will keep on their assessment of virtual reality and cognitive load: Just how much information an user can manage at a given time, plus how to optimize studying.

To bring greater awareness in order to their function, and to inspire long term veterinarians, the team will certainly make their particular veterinary clinic application available for free with CSU’s brand new Spur campus in Denver, which boasts a new virtuelle realität lab in the Vida building.

Work like this, and continued development associated with the anesthesiology and vet clinic teaching settings, will bring the team further insight into the evaluation of new technologies with regard to the next generation of healthcare workers.

“We are starting with vet medicine, yet we think VR is going to be part of the particular future regarding education, ” Boscan mentioned.

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