Promoting empathy through immersive learning

Debbie Roberts, Justine Mason, Emyr Williams, Nathan Roberts, Rhiannon Macpherson


Objectives: This paper reports on a mixed methods study to explore the use of immersive learning with a convenience sample of healthcare students (seven of Mental Health Nursing and twelve of Occupational therapy) in promoting empathy.  Two immersive learning scenarios were created using real life stories of the symptoms experienced by people with psychosis and sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Methods: Data were collected using a mixed methods approach: quantatively, using a pre and post test measure using two previously validated tools together with qualitative reflections related to the immersive learning experience.

Results: The quantitative aspect of the study demonstrated that the immersive experience solidified the already positive attitude that the participants had towards mental health and to empathy. The qualitative findings demonstrate that immersive learning brought an awareness of being empathic to the fore.

Conclusions: The findings provide evidence regarding the impact of immersive learning as a pedagogical approach. The experience provided students with an opportunity to embody people with mental illness, and students were able to consider their own future practice in relation to people experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations and flashbacks associated with PTSD.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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