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Virtual reality has found a new role: Teaching doctors to deal with patients

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For medical students and junior doctors, training can be hit and miss. Sometimes you sit down with an actor who plays the part of a patient and rehearse giving a difficult diagnosis, sometimes there’s a dummy that you examine, with a colleague shouting out imaginary symptoms along the lines of “His blood pressure’s gone through the floor!” or “She looks sweaty and confused now!”

In most cases, your imagination has to do the legwork, converting the unmoving peach-coloured rubber torso into a patient urgently in need of assistance or the actor into someone who’s about to get bad news. If you’re lucky, you get to practice this way a few times a year.

If you’re in a pandemic, you might not even get that. With training oftentimes taking place in hospitals, students and trainers now can’t go to these facilities in order to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID. So now a number of universities and medical institutions are turning to virtual reality to bridge the training gap.

“Using mannequins and actors in hospitals is a very common way of training people nowadays, and it works: we can see that that reduces errors, we can see it improves care. But it is […]

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