For many professions, formal education ends after graduation. This is not the case in the medical field, however. The healthcare industry requires continuing education for medical professionals at every stage of their careers. This article will explain why continuing education is important and detail the benefits of virtual reality training.
What Is CEU in Healthcare?
The majority of medical professionals in the US must periodically take healthcare continuing education in the form of short courses and exams. Upon completion, learners earn continuing medical education (CME) credits. Most medical licensing boards and healthcare institutions require that practitioners earn a certain amount of CME credits or continuing education units (CEU) to maintain their license1.
CEU and CME credits are often confused with one another, but there are important distinctions between the two. Both CEU and CME credits represent the hours of education, called contact hours, a learner receives. One CME credit is given per contact hour, while a CEU is generally awarded for ten contact hours, although every accreditation board has its own requirements2.
What Is the Purpose of Continuing Education?
Maintaining one’s licensing and accreditation is a key motivating factor for continuing education for medical professionals. Still, it isn’t necessarily the main underlying point. Instead, the ultimate goal of healthcare continuing education is to improve patient care by honing the skills of care providers3.
Benefits of Continuing Education
Improving patient care is why continuing education is important, but how can education modules result in better patient outcomes? The answer is that continuing education keeps healthcare workers abreast of medical advances, builds their knowledge base, refreshes old skills, and builds confidence in their abilities4.
Continuing Education Keeps Healthcare Workers Up-to-Date
Medicine is a highly dynamic field. New medicines and healthcare technologies are being developed and approved at an increasing rate. One needs to look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic for an example of this.
As healthcare workers fought the virus during the first half of 2020, their observations led to new techniques to help patients survive the infection5. These techniques were rapidly disseminated and will likely be included in continuing education modules in the years to come.
Likewise, the FDA and other approval agencies expedited parts of the approval process for COVID-19 vaccines and other therapeutics6-8. Since approval agencies intend to carry over some of the fast-track approval processes, the importance of continuing education in bringing care providers up to speed will only grow as time passes6.
Continuing Education Expands Knowledge Base
Continuing education helps acquaint healthcare workers with unfamiliar concepts, techniques, or specialties3. Many conditions are considered niche and do not get much focus during already packed medical education programs. Continuing education modules can help familiarize healthcare workers with such conditions. This may mean the difference between life or death when a care provider has to make a critical decision in a split second. Moreover, everyone has weaknesses or blind spots that they learn to work around. Continuing education can help learners identify opportunities for growth and future development.
Continuing Education Refreshes Old Skills
Learning new skills is critical, but it’s not the only reason why continuing education is important. Over time, even the skills that we use regularly become rusty. Continuing education can shine a light on these areas of improvement3. A healthcare worker may be doing something incorrectly and they’re unaware. In addition, healthcare continuing education can help refresh specialists on niche aspects of their work that they may not encounter often.
Continuing Education Gives an Outside Perspective
Healthcare institutions often develop slight variations in how they operate. Over months and years of employment, healthcare workers often fall into these patterns. Continuing education can draw the attention of employees to entrenched practices. Doing so can help identify weaknesses in these practices or solidify their utility3. This strengthens care and helps employees feel engaged and confident4.
How Can VR Benefit Continuing Education?
As demonstrated above, there is a body of evidence explaining why continuing education is important in healthcare. However, the same evidence shows a need for learning new methods3. Many educational applications have been developed for medical professionals in the wake of the recent proliferation of consumer VR technology. Virtual reality offers benefits on top of traditional continuing education methods because it is engaging, cost-effective, and accessible.
VR is Engaging
Aside from its futuristic novelty, VR took off in the gaming world because it offers engaging interactions that more traditional forms of media can’t match. It’s one thing to sit in front of a TV with a controller in hand, but it’s quite another to be thrust directly in the action.
Likewise, virtual reality continuing education pulls the learner into the situations they’re training for, with stunning visual fidelity afforded by modern graphical processing9. In addition, high-risk scenarios like mass shootings or natural disasters can be simulated in VR more effectively than other training styles10. This kind of training engrosses learners and reduces the suspension of disbelief required for other medical simulations.
VR Is Cost Effective
Virtual reality can help reduce the cost and time necessary to implement training9. Traditional medical education courses can be costly, especially when it comes to medical simulations11. On top of the direct cost of trainers and renting facility space, training simulations often require learners to take time off and, sometimes, travel to the learning site. This means that someone needs to cover their shift while they’re away, resulting in overtime pay.
Virtual reality-based medical education can bring the training to the facility; most conference rooms can be converted into a VR training room in minutes9. Eliminating the need to travel means that learners can take an hour out of their shift versus losing a whole day to training. Likewise, it prevents the need for meal and hotel compensation. Finally, although the initial cost of purchasing VR medical training equipment can be steeper than physical simulations, shifting to VR reduces long-term costs and pays off in a short time frame9,12.
VR Is Accessible
These features of VR don’t just make it affordable; they also make it accessible9. Specialized medical training is not always available. Sessions are often spaced out across the year, and openings are limited. Scheduling these training sessions is difficult, especially for team learning scenarios9.
VR continuing education eliminates this issue, as multiple people can train together in person at their place of work. In addition, VR can be used for distance learning as well, letting employees who work remotely train alone or with colleagues from the comfort of their living room.
SimX VR Medical Simulations for Continuing Education
SimX is leading the charge in VR medical simulation software with industry-leading features. Our VR platform is designed to run on readily available consumer all-in-one wireless VR headsets — no laptop required. We provide simulations aimed towards professionals including surgeons, first responders, and battlefield medics.
Our simulations support multi-user training for learners in the same space or miles apart. SimX provides numerous patients and scenarios that can be tweaked on the fly by instructors. We can even design custom cases at a fraction of the cost of our competitors.
Visit us by clicking here to sign up for a free trial and see first-hand how SimX can improve the continuing education at your institution.
- Institute. IoMUCoPaCHPE. Continuing Professional Development: Building and Sustaining a Quality Workforce. In: Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions Washington (DC): National Academies Press; 2010.
- ASHA. What are ASHA Continuing Education Units (CEUs)? https://www.asha.org/ce/ceus/what-are-asha-continuing-education-units/. Accessed December 20th, 2021.
- Institute. IoMUCoPaCHPE. Scientific Foundations of Continuing Education. In: Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions Washington (DC): National Academies Press; 2010.
- Hartley H, Smith JD, Vandyk A. Systematic Review of Continuing Education Interventions for Licensed Nurses Working in Psychiatry. J Contin Educ Nurs. 2019;50(5):233-240.
- Ghelichkhani P, Esmaeili M. Prone Position in Management of COVID-19 Patients; a Commentary. Arch Acad Emerg Med. 2020;8(1):e48.
- Parums DV. Editorial: First Full Regulatory Approval of a COVID-19 Vaccine, the BNT162b2 Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine, and the Real-World Implications for Public Health Policy. Med Sci Monit. 2021;27:e934625.
- Khoury M, Ikonomou L, Dominici M, LeBlanc K, Levine BL, Weiss DJ. The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Pitfall or a Fast Track for Validating Cell Therapy Products? Stem Cells Dev. 2021;30(3):119-127.
- Cassidy C, Dever D, Stanbery L, Edelman G, Dworkin L, Nemunaitis J. FDA efficiency for approval process of COVID-19 therapeutics. Infect Agent Cancer. 2020;15(1):73.
- Pottle J. Virtual reality and the transformation of medical education. Future Healthc J. 2019;6(3):181-185.
- McGrath JL, Taekman JM, Dev P, et al. Using Virtual Reality Simulation Environments to Assess Competence for Emergency Medicine Learners. Acad Emerg Med. 2018;25(2):186-195.
- Senvisky JM, McKenna RT, Okuda Y. Financing And Funding A Simulation Center. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL)2021.
- Farra SL, Gneuhs M, Hodgson E, et al. Comparative Cost of Virtual Reality Training and Live Exercises for Training Hospital Workers for Evacuation. Comput Inform Nurs. 2019;37(9):446-454.