Traister studies VR’s use in prepping nursing students

Published 08.25.2023

Faculty & Staff
For Current Penn College Students
School of Nursing & Health Sciences News

While anxiety is the most prevalent mental health concern, research indicates that nurses do not feel adequately prepared to care for anxious patients. With that fact in mind, a Pennsylvania College of Technology administrator recently researched the use of virtual reality simulation in nursing education to help lessen nursing students’ own anxiety in dealing with anxious patients.

Assistant Dean of Nursing & Health Sciences Tanae A. Traister’s research is published in the September issue of Clinical Simulation in Nursing, Volume 82. The international, peer-reviewed journal is published monthly by the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. Traister’s study is titled “Virtual Reality Simulation’s Influence on Nursing Students’ Anxiety and Communication Skills: A Pilot Study.”

Tanae A. Traister

The publication stems from Traister’s doctoral dissertation. She completed a Doctor of Philosophy in nursing from Wilkes University in 2022.

For her research, Traister recruited students in Penn College’s pre-licensure associate degree and bachelor’s degree registered nurse majors to complete, twice, a full-immersion virtual reality simulation involving a patient suffering from anxiety. Traister evaluated students’ own anxiety levels before and after the first simulation and again after the second to identify their trend in anxiety knowing they would be caring for a patient experiencing acute anxiety.

Thirty-three students volunteered for the simulations, meeting the pilot study’s initial sample size requirements.

“The goal for my research was to contribute to the currently small but growing body of knowledge surrounding the use of full-immersion virtual reality simulation in nursing education,” Traister said.

Penn College began incorporating virtual reality simulation into its nursing coursework in 2020 through a complimentary trial offered by Elsevier. Tushanna M. Habalar, assistant professor of nursing, was the first at the college to use the technology, incorporating it into Fundamentals of Nursing courses taken by bachelor’s degree nursing students. The simulations use a headset and hand controls to completely immerse a learner in a virtual environment.

Traister’s research revealed that the full-immersion virtual reality simulation decreased students’ anxiety levels when communicating with anxious patients.

Nurses, Traister points out, are the front line of patient care and spend the most time communicating with patients.

“Unfortunately, many anxiety sufferers go undiagnosed or untreated because of a perceived negative societal stigma, personal embarrassment or normalization of symptoms,” Traister wrote. “Those who attempt to seek treatment for their anxiety symptoms may perceive their encounters with health care providers as unsupportive or dismissive; therefore, avoiding care.”

Untreated anxiety can lead to poor patient outcomes, since those experiencing anxiety may not be able to process and remember the information and instructions provided by their health care team.

“I was certainly honored that Penn College allowed me to carry out my research on campus and incredibly thankful for the students who volunteered their time," she said. "Upon completion of my dissertation, my hope was to see this research through publication, and I knew exactly in which journal I wanted this showcased, and that is the Clinical Simulation in Nursing Journal.”

Traister has been employed by Penn College since 2012. She served as an adjunct clinical instructor, a full-time nursing faculty member, clinical director of nursing and director of nursing: associate degrees, before taking on her current position as assistant dean. She resides in Shamokin.

In addition to her doctorate from Wilkes, she holds a Master of Science in nursing education/faculty role from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Penn State.

To learn more about the academic programs offered by the School of Nursing & Health Sciences at Penn College, call 570-327-4519.

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