Objective: Contemporary training in obstetrics and gynecology is aimed at the acquisition of a complex set of skills oriented to both the technical and personal aspects of patient care. The ability to create clinical simulations through virtual reality (VR) may facilitate the accomplishment of these goals. The purpose of this paper is 2-fold: (1) to review the circumstances and equipment in industry, science, and education in which VR has been successfully applied, and (2) to explore the possible role of VR for training in obstetrics and gynecology and to suggest innovative and unique approaches to enhancing this training.
Material and methods: Qualitative assessment of the literature describing successful applications of VR in industry, law enforcement, military, and medicine from 1995 to 2000. Articles were identified through a computer-based search using Medline, Current Contents, and cross referencing bibliographies of articles identified through the search.
Results: One hundred and fifty-four articles were reviewed. This review of contemporary literature suggests that VR has been successfully used to simulate person-to-person interactions for training in psychiatry and the social sciences in a variety of circumstances by using real-time simulations of personal interactions, and to launch 3-dimensional trainers for surgical simulation. These successful applications and simulations suggest that this technology may be helpful and should be evaluated as an educational modality in obstetrics and gynecology in two areas: (1) counseling in circumstances ranging from routine preoperative informed consent to intervention in more acute circumstances such as domestic violence or rape, and (2) training in basic and advanced surgical skills for both medical students and residents.
Conclusion: Virtual reality is an untested, but potentially useful, modality for training in obstetrics and gynecology. On the basis of successful applications in other nonmedical and medical areas, VR may have a role in teaching essential elements of counseling and surgical skill acquisition.