Partnership tests Vt. virtual tech and trains future nurses

Vermonters helping Vermonters, that’s the message as Castleton University students beta test virtual reality technology for a local entrepreneurial venture.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 5:40 AM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 9:00 AM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermonters helping Vermonters -- that’s the message as Castleton University nursing students beta-test virtual reality technology for a local entrepreneurial venture. Tacitly, a Rutland-based extended reality company, is working on training materials for the health care field. While their product is being developed, Vermont nursing students are getting a seat at the table.

The students might physically be standing in Castleton University but their heads are in a hospital.

“It’s kind of like video games, but not just strange -- getting the handle of your environment because you know it’s not real. But you don’t want to bump into a wall or your neighbor or something,” said Rafael Robles, a Castleton University student.

In one class, students manipulate what’s called a code cart in the nursing world.

“Being able to actually see one and being able to see what’s inside of it without having to actually take apart a real one is actually a really good experience,” Castleton University student Maria Pate said.

“In the real world, once it gets opened, there’s a significant process involved in putting it back together. So, that it is how it needs to be every time that it’s utilized. So oftentimes, teaching on cold carts only happens after they’ve been used once, they’ve already been opened,” said Stefanie Wilbur, an assistant nursing professor at Castleton University.

The virtual reality goggles and experiences are the brainchild of Rutland entrepreneur Jeff Dejarnette and his company Tacitly. He’s partnering with the university to have their nursing students beta-test the product.

“I was introduced to a traveling nurse. We basically sat down for a couple of hours and came up with the idea for COVID Kurt -- seemed like a really cool idea,” said DeJarnette.

Subsequently, the students get real-life training that they hadn’t gotten until now. Their feedback helps Dejarnette improve the product. In a world where nursing and technology are becoming more connected, Wilbur says having a seat at the table is vital.

“Seasoned nurses in the field are often introduced to technology and products and we say, ‘Why was there not a nurse sitting next to the developer when they developed this product? Because if there was, I would have wanted this or I would have asked this to be done differently,’” said Wilbur.

This technology is expected to continue to pop up in Vermont’s nursing training. DeJarnette said they’re in contact with the University of Vermont, UVM Medical Center, and Rutland Regional to see how the technology could fit into training and hospital settings.