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A virtual radiotherapy treatment room is allowing practitioners at Hull's Princess Royal Hospital to develop and refine their skills without setting foot in a real treatment room.
The system, known as the virtual environment for radiotherapy training (VERT), is thought to be the first such facility in the world. Developed by Roger Phillips of the University of Hull's computer science department, with clinical input from Andy Beavis, principal physicist at the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, it projects a life sized treatment room on a screen, allowing trainees and qualified radiographers to practise planning and delivering treatment in a real life situation.
“The system allows trainees and staff to acquire skills that they would normally only be able to get in the actual treatment room. It creates a very rich sense of presence,” said Professor Phillips.
Everyone wins, he added. Trainees benefit because they learn to use the equipment, with the actual handset used in the theatres, in a stress-free environment where mistakes are allowed to happen. “They can walk around the virtual treatment table and learn about different patient scenarios—[including] what will happen to the patient if the equipment is set up incorrectly, something that would be stopped in a real theatre,” said Professor Phillips.
Patients benefit because when trainees come into the treatment room they are more familiar with the equipment, and hospitals benefit because theatre time is not taken up with training, added Professor Phillips.
The university is currently developing a consortium with other universities and manufacturers to make VERT more widely available. Aarhaus University Hospital in Denmark, Hertfordshire University Hospital, and the University of Central England are building their own training suites with the technology.