A ‘game-changing’ virtual reality project which is helping Telford College’s trainee health care assistants to prepare for emotional challenges they will face in their careers has won a national award.

Experience design experts Inizio Engage XD and Telford College won silver at the Learning Technologies Awards in London in the ‘best use of simulations or virtual environments for learning’ category.

The project was praised for its ‘great reduction in costs and good use of technology’, with organisers saying: “This was a beautiful and emotionally impactful piece on an important topic.

“The judges particularly liked the exploration of the emotional demands on healthcare workers, such as fear and grief, to help them understand the intensity of the role, instead of just the skills required.

“The amount of end user-testing to ensure the aims and outcomes of the app were met, was admirable.”

Telford College principal and chief executive Graham Guest said: “To see one of our projects recognised in front of 800 people at such a high-profile national event was incredible.

“The competition attracted hundreds of applications, and we were up against some global companies in our category, including Land Rover, HSBC, and many more.

“We must say a big thank-you to all of our partners, including the Integrated Care Services team at our local NHS and our in-house Telford College team, who helped to turn this ambitious vision into a reality.”

The VR experience created for Telford College by Inizio Engage XD drew on behavioural science expertise and an understanding of immersive technology to ensure the final learning experience would resonate around the emotional challenge healthcare workers face.

“This included feeling overwhelmed, suffering abuse from patients, dealing with dementia, or seeing a patient pass away for the first time,” the company said.

“Often, VR is used to learn practical skills, while this experience focused on preparing trainees for the emotional impact of working in healthcare.”

Inizio Engage XD carried out extensive interviews with healthcare professionals, students and both current and former health care assistants before the creation of the experience.

Extensive testing was also conducted with users as the experience was developed, to gauge their emotional reactions and ensure the right emotional nuances were being achieved.

Caroline Bastow, head of quality and learning, teaching and assessment at Telford College said: “This VR experience is already having a real impact on our students.

“For us, it’s a game-changer when it comes to bridging the gap between theory and practice, especially when it can be difficult to get ‘real-life’ placements.

“The VR experience really is the wow factor - the start of every teaching programme, which can prepare students emotionally like nothing else.’’

Chris Nicholls, digital creative director at Inizio Engage XD, said: “Often learning is centred around teaching new skills or information that will help people perform or progress in their roles, but we found that health care assistants needed help to prepare for the emotional demands of the work just as much.

“This is where VR became invaluable. By creating ‘real life’ challenging scenarios, it allowed the trainees to live through what they are likely to experience when qualified, making them more emotionally equipped for the work ahead of them.

“We are proud of the work we’ve produced and to have won this prestigious award.”