Virtual training hospital and digital ambulance
Medical students acquire medical skills as avatars

Ulm University

Training for a medical profession in the virtual world is a vision of the future that is already a reality for medical students at Ulm University. The training hospital “ToTrainU”, which was inaugurated in 2021, is currently being reproduced in digital form. Future physicians are now already able to practice complicated procedures during the virtual ambulance internship.

VR glasses are the ticket to the virtual training world. As avatars, medical students from Ulm meet patients with various clinical pictures. As a start, the emergency medical ambulance internship has been transferred to virtual reality (VR) for the current winter semester. “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we were forced to cancel the internship in which students learn important emergency medical procedures two semesters in a row. Now we are happy to be able to offer our students a digital version, which will be a useful addition to the internship in the future as well, when we have returned to normal university operation”, says Professor Claus-Martin Muth, head of Emergency Medicine at the Ulm University Medical Centre.

A much larger project has been started in parallel to the pilot project as well: areas of the new training hospital ToTrainU (TTU) are being virtualised. In addition to a simulated medical consulting room, digital versions of an intensive care unit and a shock room will soon be available. Here, students will be able to practice dialogue situations or important treatment procedures individually or as a team. All of the training scenarios have been designed by experienced medical professionals from the Ulm University Medical Centre, in collaboration with experts from the field of e-learning.

VR formats complement learning opportunities in the medical programme

Astrid Horneffer, medical director of the TTU and responsible for the coordination of simulation training, sees VR teaching formats as an important piece of the puzzle: “Our students practice skills such as taking blood and surgical suturing on simple models in so-called skills labs. In virtual reality training, they learn treatment procedures and communication in a team, which will then ultimately be implemented in the real training hospital – in some cases even with the help of actors”. Exercises are available at varying degrees of difficulty, in areas such as trauma surgery and intensive care.

The Ulm-based eEducation in Medicine Baden-Württemberg Competence Centre is cooperating with TriCAT to transfer the ambulance internship and the TTU into a virtual reality format. The company from the neighbouring science city has developed the immersion multi-user VR software i:medtasim, on the basis of which the rooms are being reproduced according to scale.

To start with, medical students in the clinical section will only have access to the digital training with VR glasses from the real TTU. In the future,  however, they will be able to treat their virtual patients from the comfort of their own desk or sofa.

“The VR seminars add a new dimension to the medical training: in the virtual world, our future doctors can develop their practical skills step by step and try out ideal typical procedures without the burden of time pressure. This training makes it easier for them to remain calm in stressful situations in real life”, explains project head Robert Speidel from the eEducation Competence Centre in the Medical Faculty. The virtual training hospital is scheduled to be opening its digital doors from the 2022/23 winter semester.

Text and mediacontact: Annika Bingmann


Medical students practice a treatment scenario in virtual reality (Photo: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
Project manager Robert Speidel, a psychologist specialised in learning sciences and medical director of the TTU, Astrid Horneffer (from left), coordinate the real and virtual simulations (Photo: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
Robert Speidel demonstrates the new VR learning opportunities (Photo: private)
Robert Speidel demonstrates the new VR learning opportunities (Photo: private)