The impact of a virtual reality training programme on health professionals’ knowledge, understanding and empathy

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Background: Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and
dependency among older people worldwide. Virtual Reality programmes
offer a new and innovative sensory distortion programme designed to
provide participants with a greater understanding of people living with
dementia. To date, limited research has been undertaken on the impact of such
Aim: To investigate the impact of the Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT)
programme on understanding of the thoughts, emotion and behaviour of
people with dementia.
Methods: A quasi-experimental one sample quantitative repeated
measures research design using a psychometrically acceptable instrument
was used to measure changes in the knowledge, understanding and
empathy levels. A convenience sample of health care professionals (n=233)
who participated in the virtual reality training programme in February
- March 2019 completed pre and post experience questionnaires. The
programme, using virtual reality technologies, allowed participants to
appreciate the symptoms of moderate dementia. Full ethical approval was
Results: The findings demonstrated a positive and statistically significant
impact on participant’s knowledge and understanding of empathy. Participants
also reported that the training allowed them to ‘walk in the shoes’ of the
person with dementia. Significant increases were noted across empathetic
understanding of cognitive/emotive impact of dementia; the behaviours of
people with dementia and the provision of person-centred practice for people
with dementia. These changes were noted across all health professionals
and informal carers. All (100%) of participants recommended the
programme as an effective training tool.
Participants reported that the VDT training had a significant impact on their understanding of the impact of dementia, helping participants to bring their theoretical understanding of dementia ‘to life’.
Conclusion: The virtual reality experience is an effective, well received
training programme providing a unique opportunity to experience
dementia. It has a significant impact in understanding and insight into the
world of dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Sept 2019


  • Dementia
  • Virtual Dementia Tour
  • Empathy
  • Care and compassion


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