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Virtual reality videos used in undergraduate palliative and oncology medical teaching: results of a pilot study
  1. Mark Taubert1,2,
  2. Lucie Webber2,
  3. Timothy Hamilton3,
  4. Madeleine Carr4 and
  5. Mark Harvey5
  1. 1 Palliative Medicine, Velindre NHS Trust, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2 Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  3. 3 Palliative Medicine, Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4 Marie Curie Hospice Cardiff and Vale, Cardiff, UK
  5. 5 Media and Technology, Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark Taubert, Palliative Medicine, Velindre NHS Trust, CardiffCF14 2TL, UK; mtaubert{at}


Background Virtual reality (VR) immersive environments have been shown to be effective in medical teaching. Our university hospital received funding from our deanery, Health Education in Wales, to film teaching videos with a 360-degree camera.

Aims To evaluate whether VR is an effective and acceptable teaching environment. VR headsets were set up for medical students who rotated through Velindre Cancer Hospital’s Palliative Care department.

Methods Students were asked to put on a VR headset and experience a pre-recorded 27 min presentation on nausea and vomiting in palliative care settings. They subsequently viewed a radiotherapy treatment experience from a patient’s point of view.

Results Of the 72 medical students who participated, 70 found the experience comfortable, with two students stating they felt the experience uncomfortable (1=headset too tight; 1=blurry visuals). Numerical scoring on ability to concentrate in VR from 0 to 10 (0=worst, 10=best) scored an average of 8.44 (range, 7–10). Asked whether this format suited their learning style, average score was 8.31 (range 6–10). 97.2 % (n=70) students stated that they would recommend this form of learning to a colleague, with one student saying he/she would not recommend and another stating he/she was unsure. Students left anonymous free-text feedback comments which helped frame future needs in this emerging area.

Discussion This study suggests that there is room for exploring new ways of delivering teaching and expanding it more widely in palliative care and oncology, but also provides feedback on areas that need further careful attention. Comments from students included: “Might have been the novelty factor but I learnt more from this 20 min VR thing than I have from many lectures”.

Summary The project has proved sufficiently popular in medical student feedback, that the VR experience is now available on YouTube and has been permanently introduced into routine teaching. Further 360-degree teaching environments have been filmed. Of note is that our 360-degree videos have been viewed in Africa, so this format of teaching could prove valuable due to its global reach.

  • virtual reality
  • education and training
  • palliative care education
  • immersive reality
  • augmented reality

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors MT wrote the initial draft and LW, TH, MC and MH co-wrote and reviewed the document. All authors edited the paper until it was completed.

  • Funding Wales Deanery Medical Education Department (now Healthy Education in Wales—HEIW) gave MT a grant of £3000 to spend on Virtual Reality equipment for teaching purposes, after MT won a postgraduate teaching award. Orchard Media gave their time and expertise for free to help with filming and give talks and technical advice.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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