Saving lives, virtual and real.

Our Arts and Technology researchers designed a neonatal training program that helps nurses learn online instead of on babies. Avatars, 3-D and virtual reality aren’t just about fun and games. They’re tools that are helping to change and save lives every day. Ingenious.

Saving Lives, Virtual and Real

Two nursing education research projects developed by the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering (IIAE) at The University of Texas at Dallas in collaboration with the UT Arlington College of Nursing are using virtual environments to train students for medical careers.

One project—“Can Game Play Teach Student Nurses How to Save Lives?”—is a game-based simulation that uses 3-D infant patients in a synthetic environment to give undergraduate nursing students virtual clinical practice opportunities. The project was funded through a UT System Transforming Undergraduate Education grant and has been recognized for its applications of information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.

A second research project,, is a blended-learning website that incorporates interactive technology and virtual environments to assist graduate students seeking nurse practitioner degrees and certifications. The project started with neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) curriculum. The project is funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. affords students opportunities to practice their classroom knowledge through the use of interactive modules and a 3-D virtual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The components of the NNP curriculum are presented through lecture notes with embedded media, and a variety of other multimedia forms, including videos, interactive games, simulations and virtual equipment demonstrations. Students can practice clinical skills in the virtual NICU, an immersive environment where 3-D patients present medical conditions covered in lecture content.

Both projects are research collaborations between Dr. Marjorie A. Zielke, School of Arts and Humanities assistant professor of arts and technology and the associate director of IIAE, and Dr. Judy LeFlore, professor at the UT Arlington College of Nursing.

“Can Game Play Teach Student Nurses How to Save Lives?” was a 2012 Computerworld Honors Laureate and also won first place for Emerging and Innovative Technologies and Methods at the 11th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare. tied for first place as Best Demonstration Project at the “Innovations in Health Science Education” conference sponsored by the six health science campuses within the UT System. also won second place or honorable mention at the 13th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare.

“These continual awards reinforce the deep talent of our student developers,” Zielke said. “I also think we need to give a great deal of credit to our strong collaboration with the UT Arlington College of Nursing.

“I am particularly proud of the scope of the recognition we are receiving from international conferences to internal recognition by the UT System Health Science campuses,” Zielke said.