Topics: College of Applied Sciences and Technology, College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

February 2, 2009

How can nurses train in a new hospital wing before it is constructed? Or after it's complete and full of patients? 

This is one of the challenges faced by Ball Memorial Hospital during construction of its $87 million John W. Fisher Heart Center. The facility, which just opened, houses an intensive care unit and a critical care unit, among other important functions. 

For help addressing the situation, hospital officials turned to Ball State University and its emerging media experts. Rather than have the nurses don hardhats and run training seminars amidst saws and hammers, Ball State's Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts and Animation (IDIAA) worked to create a virtual training program. The result allowed nurses to interact with the new layout and better adapt to their new surroundings before the physical construction was complete. 

This could be extremely important in terms of ultimate patient care, as nurses are adapting to a new facility as well as learning a new patient-based floor design. Rather than having a single nursing station surrounded by many rooms, the wing has individual nursing stations ensconced between two rooms. 

"Our interactive training simulation showcases new, more efficient methods for working in a decentralized care unit as opposed to a centralized care unit," said John Fillwalk, IDIAA director. "Switching from a single hub to multiple nursing stations represents a culture shift for nurses, and we were able to help them work through that." 

Using Quest 3D, a virtual reality program, Fillwalk and his team developed "New Spaces, New Care," a training simulation that works like a computer game, allowing nurses to virtually explore their new environment, sit at their new workstations, view and walk into patients' rooms, examine charts and access medicine cabinets.

By exploring the new center before it was complete, the nurses were better acquainted with the amenities, which once mastered, will give them more time for their patients, Fillwalk said.

"By working directly with hospital officials and the nursing staff, we were able to create a program to more quickly acclimate staff members to their new environment and help them focus on the most important component of their jobs — tending to patients," he added.

This isn't the first collaboration between IDIAA and Ball State's nationally recognized School of Nursing. Working with the school and the university's Teleplex, Fillwalk recently helped create an interactive site for students in Second Life. The collaborative project helped solve an ongoing challenge of developing and staging patient simulations for nurses in training through the online world of Second Life.

Both projects are part of Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative, a $17.7 million investment to accelerate economic benefits to Indiana, Fillwalk notes.

"The IDIAA will continue to develop partnerships and seek out practical applications of Ball State's emerging media expertise like these projects," he said. "People can see firsthand the economic impact of construction. As we complete more projects like 'New Spaces, New Care,' more and more people will understand the potential of emerging media and see how it can boost our economy."