Immersive virtual reality simulated learning environment versus role-play for empathic clinical communication training

Daniel Sapkaroski, Matthew Mundy, Matthew Richard Dimmock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The use of immersive virtual reality simulated learning environments (VR SLEs) for improving clinical communication can offer desirable qualities including repetition and determinism in a safe environment. The aim of this study was to establish whether the mode of delivery, VR SLE versus clinical role-play, could have a measurable effect on clinical empathic communication skills for MRI scenarios. Methods: A split-cohort study was performed with trainee practitioners (n = 70) and qualified practitioners (n = 9). Participants were randomly assigned to four groups: clinician VR (CVR), clinician role-play (CRP), trainee VR (TVR), and trainee RP (TRP). Clinical communication skills were assessed using two methods: firstly, a self-reported measure – the SE-12 communication questionnaire and, secondly, a training and assessment tool developed by a panel of experts. Results: Participants in the VR trainee (TVR) and clinician (CVR) groups reported 11% (P < 0.05) and 7.2% (P < 0.05) improvements in communication confidence post training, whereas trainees assigned to the role-play (TRP) intervention reported a 4.3% (P < 0.05) improvement. Empirical assessment of communication training scores assessing a participant’s ability to select empathic statements showed the TVR group performed 5% better on average than their role-play counterparts (P < 0.05). Conclusion: The accuracy of participant's selection of appropriate empathic responses was shown to differ significantly following the training intervention designed to improve interactions with patients that present for an MRI scan. The results may demonstrate the capacity for immersion into an emotional narrative in a VR environment to increase the user’s susceptibility for recalling and selecting empathic terminology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Radiation Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • medical imaging
  • simulated learning environment
  • virtual reality


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