Quebec hospital uses virtual reality to help with nurse shortage

A hospital in Quebec is using virtual reality to overcome staff shortages and improve access to care, all with the help of nurses dozens of kilometres away.

Nurse Melissa Plourde is wearing a virtual reality headset during one of her rounds at Suroît Hospital in Valleyfield, Que. and she is not playing games.

What she’s doing, though, is a real game-changer in health care.

“We’re going to do the evaluation with the nurse over the headset,” she says to patient Roger Dumouchel.

Dumouchel is recovering from a lack of oxygen and water retention in his lungs.

Plourde is an auxiliary nurse, which means she can’t do certain tasks, such as evaluating a patient.

So she connects Dumouchel with someone who can, a nurse nurse nearly 70 kilometres away at the Jewish General Hospital’s virtual ward.

From the command centre, qualified nurses are able to see the patient through the virtual headset Plourde is wearing.

They can even talk to both the nurse and the patient with the help of an iPad.

“They’re looking at the vital signs of the patients to be able to monitor their condition at the same time they’re able, through augmented reality glasses, to do a physical evaluation of the patients,” said Erin Cook, who oversees virtual care at the Jewish General Hospital. “On the Suroît side, they have care attendants that are there at the bedside of the patients that need any inpatient care.”

The patient has a monitor that tracks his vital signs 24-7, making the information available to both hospitals.

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