Stoke & Staffordshire

Keele University students given virtual teaching wards

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Media captionThe BBC's David Gregory takes a look inside the virtual hospital ward

A university in Staffordshire is employing 3D car design technology to train the next generation of pharmacy students in a virtual hospital ward.

The ward appears to the student as a three-sided room with 3D images projected on the floor and walls and randomly generated patients to examine.

Students can flip through patients' medical charts, view bedside monitors as well as interact with patients.

The university said the technology would be useful for course assessments.

The programme is called Virtual Cave and is very similar to the technology Jaguar uses to test new designs for the car interiors.

Subtle symptoms

Students can enter the ward and as they move and look around it their view changes, just as it would in the real world.

The computing capability of the system allows teaching staff to programme patients to provide clues about their state of health.

Students may well notice a jaundiced, yellow skin tone in a patient but some symptoms are more subtle, even down to a slight tremor in the patient's hands.

A soundtrack recorded in a real hospital completes the effect.

The idea is to give students a taste of what they can expect in the real world while also giving lecturers a completely repeatable patient encounter, which they said would be vital for exams.

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