Teaching RN-BSN Students Community Health using an Immersive Virtual Environment

Eileen C. Thomas, PhD, RN

January 2017


The Institute of Medicine made a recommendation that 80% of all nurses possess a minimum of a bachelor of science in nursing degree by 2020 (Institute of Medicine, 2011). As a result of an influx of nurses returning to school, the shortage of public/community health clinical practice sites led to competition between schools for student placements in community settings. Finding appropriate clinical practice sites has become a challenge, not only for nursing students but also for students in all practice-disciplines with a required clinical or practice experience component. Immersive learning in a virtual environment effectively addresses the problem of identifying and securing appropriate community-based sites for practice experiences and provides a safe environment for students to learn how to conduct a windshield survey.

Key Points

  • Simulation, commonly used as a supplemental educational strategy to teach healthcare professional students hands-on skills, has become a valuable tool to provide practical experiences in a safe environment before students are expected to function in real-world acute care clinical settings.
  • Finding clinical practice sites in community settings has become a challenge and resulted in competition between schools for student placements in the community.
  • The use of simulation in nursing education provides opportunities for students to learn and apply critical thinking skills and theoretical principles of nursing care in a safe environment. Immersive virtual environments can be used to teach community/public health concepts such as community assessment by conducting a windshield survey.
  • Virtual environments can be used in a variety of programs outside of nursing and can be a valuable immersive learning experience for students in many different practice disciplines with a required clinical or practice experience component.
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