University of West Scotland new Dumfries campus aims to bridge health skills gap

The University of the West of Scotland opened its new multimillion pound campus to students on Monday 6 March. 

With 90% of its intake studying Health and Social Care courses, there are high hopes that it will go some way to bridging a skills gap in these areas. 

NHS Borders, for example, has a current nursing vacancy rate of 7.9%. 

The new Campus in Dumfries was first conceived in 2016 but was put on hold by the pandemic. 

Julie Orr, the Campus Manager - who is also a registered nurse - said the old facilities were no longer fit for purpose and that a new emphasis on hands on, interactive training would lead to more assured, safety conscious graduates. 

“In my opinion it makes it safer,” she said. “We've now got the superb equipment and for the students can practice on a variety of skills safely so that then when they take out they’ve practiced it so many times that they're then familiar with it. So when they're hit with the real thing, they just go into automatic pilot."

Credit: ITV Border

One of the most eye catching developments is a new immersive suite that can create 3D scenarios for students without them having to leave the campus. 

It was installed by Liverpool based Immersive Interactive who say it can be endlessly modified to create infinite new scenarios. 

“We can basically take you anywhere in the world and we can add any sort of interactive elements, be it a quiz or a pop up,” said Jack Taylor, of Immersive Interactive.

“You can move from one location to another without ever breaking the immersive experience.”

Current students were full of praise for the high tech innovations. 

“It's risk free you are not in the position of killing someone, and we can make all the mistakes without the consequences,” said one. 

“Instead of just having that classroom experience you've got the feeling it feels that you're in a hospital, you're immersed,” said another.

A third added: “We're going to be able to just really visualize what we're doing and really be able to get stuck in."

When asked whether she thought the new training environment would help with the skills gap Julie Orr - who is herself a registered nurse, was frank. 

“There’s no way to know, of course,” she said. "But you would hope so.”

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