Simulating a situation of homelessness: nursing students' perceptions of learning through virtual embodiment

Main Article Content

Niki Soilis
Elizabeth Anne Kinsella
Francoise Filion
Jason Harley
Farhan Bhanji
Fernanda Claudio
Laurence Roy
Vivetha Thambinathan
Nadja Benmohamed


Individuals experiencing homelessness encounter unique challenges in accessing and receiving care in our health systems[1,2,3,4]  Preparing emerging health professionals to respond to their complex health needs will require innovative educational approaches that promote person-centered care, and stimulate critical reflection and action towards the personal, interpersonal and structural factors that shape health care delivery.[5,6,7]

This presentation reports on preliminary findings of phase 1 of a critical qualitative case study of nursing student’s perceptions of learning about the experience of homelessness, through a virtual reality educational experience.  The study design was informed by critical transformative learning theories and theories of embodiment.  Twenty nursing students were engaged in a virtual reality experience of 12 minutes, followed by a 1:1 debrief interview. The debrief interview used an adapted version of the Promoting Excellence and Reflective Learning in Simulation (PEARLS) framework to elicit students’ reflections on the experience. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Data analysis involved a process of reading all of the transcripts for a sense of the whole, mindmapping each of the transcripts, identifying themes that permeated the data set, and coding data in Quirkos software. Six preliminary themes include: a) seeing the person through story, b) destabilizing assumptions and questioning stereotypes, c) embodied emotional awareness, d) challenges to care, e) recognizing vulnerability of people experiencing homelessness, and f) quality of the immersive experience in learning.

The findings contribute to our knowledge about virtual reality simulation as an innovative approach to fostering learning about homelessness in health professions education.


Article Details

How to Cite
Soilis, N., Kinsella, E. A., Filion, F., Harley, J., Bhanji, F., Claudio, F., Roy, L., Thambinathan, V., & Benmohamed, N. (2024). Simulating a situation of homelessness: nursing students’ perceptions of learning through virtual embodiment. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 11(1S), S6-S8.
Congress 2023


Fine AG, Zhang T, Hwang SW. Attitudes towards homeless people among emergency department teachers and learners: a cross-sectional study of medical students and emergency physicians. BMC Med Educ. 2013 Aug 23;13:112.

Daiski I. Perspectives of homeless people on their health and health needs priorities. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2007;58(3):273-81.

Grech E, Raeburn T. Experiences of hospitalized homeless adults and their healthcare providers in OECD nations: a literature review. Collegian. 2019;26(1):204?211

Johnstone M, Jetten J, Dingle GA, Parsell C, Walter ZC. Discrimination and well-being amongst the homeless: the role of multiple group membership. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6.

Frenk J, Chen L, Bhutta ZA, Cohen J, Crisp N, Evans T, Fineberg H, Garcia P, Ke Y, Kelley P, Kistnasamy B, Meleis A, Naylor D, Pablos-Mendez A, Reddy S, Scrimshaw S, Sepulveda J, Serwadda D, Zurayk H. Health professionals for a new century: transforming education to strengthen health systems in an interdependent world. Lancet. 2010 Dec 4;376(9756):1923-58.

Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, & Institute of Medicine (U.S.). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. National Academies Press [Internet], 2011.

Benner PE. Educating nurses: a call for radical transformation (1st ed., Ser. The jossey-bass higher and adult education series). Jossey-Bass; 2010.