Bridging the Gap: How VR and AI Can Revolutionize Nursing Education

An aging population, aging nurses, a shortage of nursing education faculty, and an increased demand for healthcare services have severe implications for patient care and safety. Throw in nurse burnout from the pandemic and healthcare approach crisis levels. Recent results from a Fall 2022 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey show declining student enrollment across nursing enrollment levels. The bottom line, the problems are getting worse instead of better.

There are a lot of efforts on many fronts to improve the situation, including increased funding for nursing education programs, initiatives to attract more individuals to the nursing profession, and improvements in working conditions and job satisfaction for nurses. However, the nursing shortage remains a significant concern and requires ongoing attention and action from policymakers, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions.

I want to offer up a solution or a large part. One that my company has been working on for years. The solution will seem like nothing new on the surface because it will seem like it has “already been done,” but let me assure you it has not. At least not at the level it needs to be. The solution is fully immersive learning with integrated curricula available to groups and individuals remotely. This solution also merges the latest artificial intelligence to produce an integrated learning curriculum and provide virtual experts and simulated personas.

Modern problems call for modern solutions. The old way of teaching and learning needs to be improved. The immersive digital age is upon us, which means, at the risk of sounding dramatic, that time and space are now variables we can significantly alter.

When I use the term immersive learning, I mostly talk about learning in interactive 3D environments such as virtual reality (VR). However, a robust system includes providing content for other platforms, such as mobile phones, web browsers on desktop systems, and augmented reality devices. Conscientious and experienced developers consider many factors when creating solutions. These include budget, audience reach, and what is taught, like theory vs. hands-on. As a shorthand, I will use the acronym VR from here on out.

Let’s look at the significant issues we face with educating nurses and how VR, combined with AI, can help.

Time and Space Cost

Let’s get this one out of the way first because you’ve probably been wondering since I mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. Both time and space essentially translate to cost. By reducing time and space, aka distance, we can reduce cost.

Pursuing nursing education often requires a significant investment of time and resources. Many nursing programs have rigorous curricula and demanding clinical requirements, making it challenging for students to balance their education with work or other responsibilities. This can lead to potential income loss or reduced work hours, adding to the overall cost of education.

VR can provide remote access to nursing education by creating immersive virtual environments that integrate curriculum with simulated clinical settings. This allows students to participate in realistic scenarios, practice skills, and engage in interactive learning experiences without physically traveling to a specific location. It offers flexibility in scheduling and reduces the constraints of geographical distance, enabling more individuals to access nursing education. Furthermore, the theory-to-practice gaps are significantly reduced by integrating curricula with hands-on.

The availability of nursing programs can vary depending on the geographic location. In some regions, there may be limited options for nursing education, especially in rural or remote areas. This can create barriers for individuals with limited access to nearby nursing programs and may need to travel long distances to attend classes or clinical placements.

Students who need to travel long distances or relocate to attend nursing programs may incur additional expenses such as housing, transportation, and living costs. These costs can add a significant burden, particularly for those who need more financial resources.

Distance can also impact individuals with existing family or community commitments. Some prospective nursing students may need help to relocate or travel far from their support networks, which could influence their decision to pursue nursing education.

Physical locations often lack the space for nurse training or have limited capacity. The same goes for doing clinicals, as there is often a tight limit of space and personnel. The clinicals will always be needed, but if nursing students come in more prepared with knowledge and know-how, then the clinicals can be much more efficient and impactful.

Virtual distance learning is not the same as immersive distance learning. Integration of curricula with hands-on interactions is the key, distinctive factor. VR solutions are getting there but still have a ways to go in being affordable and accessible to anyone that wants to get into nursing. A learning platform needs to reach anywhere in the world with an internet connection and deliver entire courses through a combination of computing devices such as PCs, phones, and VR headsets. Upcoming spatial computing devices, such as the Apple Vision Pro, will make it even more efficient for developers and educators to mix traditional curricula and provide immersive experiences that can go from pure virtual to mixed with the physical environment.

Other Expenses

Nursing education, like many other professional programs, can be costly. Tuition and fees for nursing programs can vary widely depending on the type of institution (public or private), geographic location, and program level (associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher).

Financial aid, such as student loans, grants, and scholarships, can help offset nursing education expenses. However, the availability and accessibility of financial aid options may vary, and not all students qualify for certain aid types. Students often need to navigate the financial aid process and explore various scholarship opportunities to manage the cost of their education.

Pursuing nursing education often requires a significant investment of time and resources. Many nursing programs have rigorous curricula and demanding clinical requirements, making it challenging for students to balance their education with work or other responsibilities. This can lead to potential income loss or reduced work hours, adding to the overall cost of education.

All of the above can be minimized with at-home, on-demand virtual training. Education providers can and should pass some of the large cost savings onto students to reduce tuition. Having the flexibility to jump into the learning system anytime gives students more flexibility in their life balance.

Faculty and Clinical Placement Shortage

One ongoing issue is the need for more nursing faculty in educational institutions. A recent NPR Market segment discussed the issue with enough qualified faculty. Enrollment in nursing education is declining nationwide. In Texas, about 20,000 qualified applicants for nursing school are turned away because of not enough space and faculty.

Many experienced nurses are reaching retirement age, and there need to be more qualified faculty members to replace them. This alone severely hampers the expansion of nursing education.

Nursing education requires practical, hands-on experience in clinical settings. However, there have been reports of limited clinical placement opportunities for nursing students. This is due to a need for more available preceptors, insufficient clinical sites, or competition for placement spots with other healthcare professions. Limited clinical experiences can impact the quality of education and preparedness of nursing graduates.

A well-integrated immersive learning system not only solves the initial hands-on problem by enabling home practice but can also extend to the early part of clinicals through remote viewing. One nurse, equipped with something as simple as a GoPro, could cast information to hundreds of viewers. The video could be saved and viewed later as part of the learning platform’s resources.

Insufficient Resources and Funding

The 3D digital world is incredibly efficient and cost-effective at creating and simulating real-world equipment. Nursing education requires access to up-to-date resources, equipment, and technology to provide a comprehensive learning experience. Some nursing programs may face financial constraints and struggle to secure adequate funding for modern facilities, equipment, or qualified faculty. VR is an upfront cost that can capture any type of equipment and the best in instruction. Once that is captured, it is cost-effective to replicate, distribute, and update with new information.


The challenges in nursing education, including the shortage of faculty, limited clinical placements, and high costs, require innovative solutions. Immersive learning that includes VR is a promising tool to address these issues. By creating immersive virtual environments, VR allows remote access to realistic clinical scenarios, enhances flexibility, and reduces the constraints of physical distance. Integrating curricula with VR simulations bridges the gap between theory and practice, while remote viewing capabilities can extend the reach of clinical experiences. VR-based learning platforms have the potential to minimize expenses, provide flexible scheduling, and increase accessibility for aspiring nurses. With its ability to replicate real-world equipment and resources, VR offers a cost-effective solution to enhance nursing education. By embracing VR, we can revolutionize nursing education, overcome the existing challenges, and ensure a well-prepared workforce to meet the growing demands of healthcare.