Objective: The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness of using a virtual environment (VE) versus traditional paper floor plans (FPs) to prepare nurses for wayfinding in a new hospital building.
Background: This study was designed to control for variables such as task complexity and individual ability that have been missed in other media comparison studies.
Methods: Thirty nurses were assigned to the VE or FP condition using a randomized block experimental design. Subjects were blocked by alternate ranks on spatial/navigational ability and computer attitude/experience and randomly assigned to conditions. Nurses received instruction with either a VE or FP condition. Wayfinding tasks were then completed with trained observers at the new hospital under construction.
Results: The investigators found no significant differences between the wayfinding performance or postintervention confidence levels of subjects. Instruction using both media improved wayfinding and navigation skills. Qualitative findings suggest that interactions of the instructional style, media, and learner influence information retention and transfer.
Conclusions: Although the virtual media did not prove to be more effective than FPs, it was equally effective for learning wayfinding and navigation skills in a new hospital. Nursing leaders may want to consider use of 3-dimensional VEs as an early method to provide repetitive practice for learning how to navigate a new large-scale space.