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Augmenting reality in medical education

Holographic patients are bringing a new dimension of teaching and learning to the nursing curriculum at the University of Canberra. The Australian university is introducing HoloLens, a mixed augmented reality platform by Microsoft, to gauge its potential in teaching, assessing, and potentially changing nursing education.

Traditionally, patient assessment is taught using mannequins or actors. However, with support from Pearson’s HoloPatient App, Canberra’s Faculty of Health can download patients with pre-set symptoms and behaviours directly into its nursing labs.

Cameras in the head-mounted HoloLens perform a 360-degree scan of the room and use the environment to place holographic patients and other interactive elements. For example, if there is a chair or exam table in the corner of the room, the technology will have the virtual patients sit or lay on them while the student performs their assessment.

With numerous patients already available for download—varying by symptoms, behaviours, gender, ethnicity—and more being added on a regular basis, the learning opportunities are boundless. The holographic patients are not likely to replace actors for higher stake assessments any time soon; however, they may better prepare students by bringing textbook case studies and patients to life.

While the HoloLens technology has seen early adoption in medical and radiology departments at institutions like Canberra, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Maryland, the surface of its potential is still being scratched.

If these early pilots are successful, augmented reality may eventually become a ubiquitous part of teaching and learning in a variety of academic disciplines.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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