Midwifery is one of the oldest professions in history, and now it is being taught like never before.
A team from the University of Newcastle has adopted virtual reality technology to give future midwives a comprehensive view of the internal stages of child bearing and its effects on the body.
Using mixed-reality headsets, students are able to bring up a 3D image of a pregnant woman in front of them and easily manipulate it to anatomically reflect various stages, conditions and complications.
“Being able to see things in real time, in real size in a physical space allows the students be have a much more immersive understanding of the female body,” Donovan Jones, co-convenor of the university’s midwifery course, said.
“It lets the student develop their own understanding, because they’re visually being able to see it happen in front of them.”
The prototype technology is being trialled at the university for the first time this semester and is intended to complement traditional midwifery teaching methods, including life-size dummies and clinical experience.
The software can also be loaded onto any smartphone or tablet to allow learning to take place at home.
An earlier prototype of the technology was released by the university last year and focused on teaching child resuscitation procedures.
University of Newcastle midwifery student Erin Bonett said using it had been beneficial.
“We’re the youngest generation, this is how we learn, so I think it’s very exciting and it’ll definitely be a good addition to what we already have in the classroom,” she said.
“It really allows you to immerse yourself in the learning, it definitely bridges that gap between the text book and the clinical environment.
“When I was in a real-life emergency situation I was a lot more confident, I just helped the doctor.”
The University of Newcastle said the technology was being adapted to other academic areas and was perfectly suited to any procedural training or learning requiring complex visualisations.
It is also in discussions with the CSIRO to commercialise the midwifery training software and make it available to the public.