Immersive Reality at LDF18: guest piece by Stephanie Heys

4th April 2018

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Implementing virtual reality in healthcare has a great deal of potential, and healthcare innovators and providers are increasingly tapping into this resource to improve patient care. The Immersive Reality event at The Tetley on April 19th will discuss the role of virtual reality in healthcare, and provide the opportunity to try some of these innovations out for yourself! You can register your free place through our Eventbrite page.

We are proud to welcome Stephanie Heys as a speaker at this event, with her talk: Immersive education for midwives, ‘Bringing research to life’. A Nurse, Midwife, and PhD researcher, Stephanie's current field of study is focused on reducing birth trauma for women from disadvantaged backgrounds. In Stephanie's own words: "The study adopts an innovative approach to research dissemination by applying empirical findings into practice through the means of immersive technology using VR. Using VR to address current issues faced in the NHS relating to health inequalities, interpersonal interactions in practice and human factors associated with negative and traumatic birth experiences allows technology to create a new wave of reformative education that really does ‘bring research to life’."

Immersive Reality: Realising the Benefits in Health

The need for digital innovation to revolutionise the NHS is paramount. This calls for the development, design and implementation of cutting edge solutions to enhance efficiency, empower patients, and transform current systems. Funded by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, this study aims to reduce health inequalities amongst disadvantaged and vulnerable women in the North of England. My study aims to reduce experiences of birth trauma amongst disadvantaged women by developing an educational intervention for maternity professionals. The study adopts an innovative approach to research dissemination by applying empirical findings into practice through the means of immersive technology. Empirical interviews with marginalised groups in a locality enabled contributory factors for birth trauma to be identified, and through further comparative work these findings were found to resonate with global literature in this area.

The evidence-based content was used to develop a tailored educational programme for midwives in practice through virtual reality technologies (VRT). Working with actors and academics, a short reality-based scenario was filmed that reflected the key underpinning factors that create situations of trauma. The utilisation of VRT as a medium to play the films will provide a blended learning experience that immerses the user (i.e. maternity professional) into a first person perspective during simulated scenarios. It is intended that the innovative VRT based tailored educational programme will reconnect midwives with the human aspect of caring through an exploration of interpersonal relationships and awareness of factors associated with birth trauma, thereby providing a medium for effective knowledge translation. VRT has already been implemented by psychotherapists treating phobias, by the MOD to help ex-soldiers overcome symptoms of PTSD and to treat individuals with anxiety, stress, obesity and eating disorders. Using VRT to address current issues faced in NHS practice in relation to health inequalities, quality of care and human factors associated with negative and traumatic birth experiences allows technology to create a new wave of reformative education that really does ‘bring research to life’. 

About Stephanie

Stephanie is a registered Nurse and Midwife who has been practising in East Lancashire for the past ten years. She is passionate about addressing health inequalities in the UK, improving maternity care experiences for minority groups and is an avid activist for social justice. Stephanie is currently in the last year of her PhD, funded by the NIHR Collaboration for leadership in applied health research and care, North West Coast. Her current study aims to reduce experiences of birth trauma amongst disadvantaged women by developing an educational intervention for maternity professionals. Her official PhD title is as follows: Reducing traumatic birth experiences for disadvantaged women through improved awareness, attitudes, behaviours and practices among maternity professionals: A study to assess the feasibility and acceptability of developing and using a tailored educational programme.