NWTC Health Sciences creates XR lab

Through a $300,000 grant from Achieving the Dream and the Brave of Heart Fund to address shortage of nurses and systemic inequalities in nursing pathways, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College launches its first Health Sciences Extended Reality Lab.

This state-of-the-art facility will revolutionize the way nursing education is delivered and experienced, offering students a dynamic and immersive learning environment. NWTC was selected among 10 community colleges nationwide to further develop sustainable solutions that accelerate and increase enrollment and completion of nursing credentials.

“Extended reality provides an innovative platform to enhance students’ clinical skills, critical thinking and patient care techniques. It’s truly the wave of the future in health care education, and it’s happening here,” said NWTC Dean of Health Sciences Scott Anderson. “This facility represents our ongoing commitment to training highly skilled and adaptable professionals who can meet the growing demands of the health care industry.”

The lab offers eight extended reality stations that provide a variety of simulated experiences.

Students can engage in lifelike clinical scenarios using state of the art technologies such as Meta Quest 2 (headset), HoloLens2 (headset), Acadicus (software) and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides (software), allowing them to practice in a realistic and risk-free environment.

“This lab is not replacing the in-person clinical experience, as experience with actual patients is critical to the learning process, but the virtual world offers something the real world does not — an opportunity for mistakes in an environment that is safe for the students as well as patients,” said Mitch Luker, NWTC coordinator of nursing simulation. “Students can train on a scenario as many times as needed to fine tune their responses and learn best practices.”

Some of the benefits of the extended reality lab include:

• Broadens learning opportunities. From birthing to mental health simulations, instructors can create scenarios that not every student may normally experience in a clinical setting — expanding their skillset, confidence and empathy as a health care professional.

• Provides personalized training. Simulations can be tailored to students’ individual needs so they can focus on difficult concepts and areas in need of improvement.

• Greater access. The flexibility of a virtual setting allows for students to learn new skills when it fits their schedules. Instructors also have ability to train students remotely, also reaching a wider student audience to areas for those who may not have access to traditional training.

NWTC is the largest producer of nursing graduates of any institution within the Wisconsin Technical College System over the last four years. While extended reality helps troubleshoot some of the obstacles that health care training faces today, this XR Lab will play an instrumental role in as the college continues to fill the pipeline with skilled health care professionals needed in the region.

“As the health care industry continues to combat staffing shortages, it is critical that our graduates are ready to hit the ground running with the skills, confidence and experience needed for their fast-paced careers,” said Anderson. “There is no doubt that extended reality will set a new standard for nursing education within our community and beyond.”

NWTC’s Health Science XR Lab became available to nursing students in fall 2023. Since then, the college has also offered XR training in respiratory therapy, dental, radiography, echocardiography and more.

Looking ahead, the college is actively planning for all campuses and learning centers to have this technology, providing access to high quality, specialized health sciences education to students throughout the region.

For information, visit nwtc.edu.