When Tara Holt, a third-year Purdue University pharmacy student from Frankton, Ind., steps into a pharmacy clean room for the first time, she’s likely to experience a little déjà vu.
The room should look and sound familiar. Nothing ought to feel strange about standing encased in a sterile hair cover, mask, gown, gloves and booties. That’s because Holt and her classmates will have experienced it all before in a virtual version of a pharmacy clean room. The computer-generated, 3-D immersive environment created in a Purdue project is covered in detail in this article from Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP).
“For those of us who have never worked in a hospital with a clean room, it gave us a first-hand feel of what we can expect when we are on rotations,” Holt said. “The detail that was put into this project really helped make it as close to reality as possible.”
Pharmacy clean rooms are sterile environments where pharmacists and pharmacy technicians prepare materials that need to be guaranteed contamination-free, said Steve Abel, assistant dean for clinical programs in the Purdue School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Generally found in hospitals and home health care companies, the rooms are used to prepare drugs, intravenous drips, syringes, chemotherapy treatments and the like, especially those administered directly into the bloodstream, a factor that makes vital the use of a clean room and proper clean-room procedures. Concern over the rise of antibiotic-resistant pathogens has only increased the need for such expertise.
The number of clean rooms where pharmacy students can train is limited, however. When the training involves real materials, it also can be expensive, sometimes prohibitively so. Meanwhile, Astronauts and pilots train in flight simulators, Abel reasoned, so why not pharmacy students? The virtual clean room, complete with ambient sound, and soon haptics, is the result.