Scope of practice

Science and Technology

SUMMARY: Graduate students in speech-language pathology are using virtual reality and augmented reality to practice complicated procedures.

By Hannah Long (’19)

Elizabeth Ware puts on a headset and gets into position to hold the scope to examine her patient — in this case, a mannequin head. The screen behind her offers a real-time analysis of the procedure in lifelike detail.

Ware and other graduate students in speech pathology at JMU are using virtual reality and augmented reality to practice complicated procedures without the risk of harming their patients.

"We're trying to develop a mechanism by which our students ... gain hands-on experience with some procedures and skills that are invasive and/or dangerous to their future clients," says Carol Dudding, a professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders. "We really want them to get those opportunities while they're here." 

VR simulation

In the past, a colleague of Dudding's allowed up to five students to observe the same procedure in the lab at nearby Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital, but until now, the students had not been able to practice it themselves.

"It's a great way to introduce the material and get experience with it," Ware says.

Dudding sees applications for VR and AR in other university clinical settings as well, "for nursing, for medicine, for physical therapy, for occupational therapy — any of those clinical skills that we want our students to have, but perhaps for various reasons we're not able to give them that exposure in other ways."

In 2017, Dudding reached out to James Barnes, the AR/VR instructor at JMU X-Labs, and Kevin Phaup from Industrial Design, to discuss the possibilities for this project. As a result, they formed a partnership, leveraging three diverse areas of expertise. In the spring of 2018, they received a collaborative research grant from 4-VA to develop a prototype and test their ideas, and that summer they participated in jmUDESIGN as they created the pilot course. The project led to a new course in AR/VR medical simulation design at JMU X-Labs during Spring 2019.

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Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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