The Effects of a VR Intervention on Career Interest, Empathy, Communication Skills, and Learning with Second-Year Medical Students

  • Erin WashingtonEmail author
  • Carrie Shaw
Part of the Educational Media and Technology Yearbook book series (EMTY, volume 42)


Embodied Labs works at the intersection of virtual reality storytelling and healthcare workforce training to create experiences where trainees learn from embodying the perspective of the patient and members of the patient’s care team. Ninety-four second-year medical students were selected to pilot a virtual reality (VR) geriatric immersion prior to the start of their geriatrics coursework. Students individually used an Oculus Rift headset with Leap Motion VR technology to embody Alfred, a 74-year-old African-American man with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and high-frequency hearing loss. This VR experience begins with the learner embodying Alfred at his birthday party and experiencing challenges interacting with his family due to visual and hearing impairments. Then the learner, as Alfred, is seen at a doctor’s visit and has difficulty completing a cognitive test due to the AMD. Data from pre/post-test surveys and focus group transcripts showed that students who participated in the VR intervention showed increased interest in pursuing a gerontology specialty, improved perspective-taking ability, and a greater understanding of the skills needed to care for aging adults as well as a decrease in use of stereotypical words/phrases to describe aging adults. This pilot study shows that by embodying the patient and caregiver perspective in VR, medical students show positive change in their knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about aging adults.


Virtual reality Geriatrics Aging Medical education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Spartanburg Methodist CollegeGreerUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical VisualizationUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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