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Virtual reality simulations in nurse education: A systematic mapping review

Plotzky, C., Lindwedel, U., Sorber, M., Loessl, B., König, P., Kunze, C., Kugler, C. and Meng, M. (2021) Virtual reality simulations in nurse education: A systematic mapping review. Nurse Education Today, 101 . Art. 104868.

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Simulation-based learning is widely used in nurse education, including virtual reality (VR) methods which have experienced a major growth lately. Virtual reality offers risk free and contactless learning. Currently, little is known about what topics of nursing are adopted for VR simulations and how their design meets various educational goals. This review aims to scope existing articles on educational VR nursing simulations, and to analyse approaches from didactic and technical perspectives.


A systematic mapping review following the PRISMA-ScR guideline and PICo search strategy was conducted. Peer reviewed articles in English and German were searched across Scopus, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PSYNDEX, PsycARTICLES, PubMed, ERIC and The Cochrane Library. Studies had to include at least one immersive head-mounted display VR simulation in the field of nursing education. Data extraction and analysis was performed in a narrative, graphical and tabular way.


Twenty-two articles were identified. There is a large variety in the use and definition of VR simulation for educational purposes. Simulations were classified into four main educational objectives: procedural skills training to improve technical knowledge and proficiency; emergency response training that focusses on confidence; soft skills training that teaches empathy; and finally, psychomotor skills training. Various approaches and simulation designs were implemented to achieve these educational outcomes. A few of them were highly innovative in providing an immersive experience to learn complex tasks, e.g. auscultation, or foster empathy by mimicking life with dementia.


Despite an increase in the use of state-of-the-art VR nursing simulations, there is still a paucity of studies on immersive HMD based VR scenarios. Researchers designing educational VR packages need to be clear on terminology. In order to make full use of VR, designers should consider including haptic devices to practise psychomotor skills and include social interaction to teach soft skills.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Nursing
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd.
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