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New virtual reality app helps nursing staff consider a career in adult prison healthcare settings

9 November 2022

Nurses who are considering a career working in adult prisons can now experience what their roles might be like thanks to a new immersive virtual reality app.

The app (which can be accessed and downloaded from the Health Education England elearning for healthcare Hub), provides an overview of working in a prison healthcare setting, including the benefits and challenges, through a series of interviews with a mental health nurse, healthcare officer and GP.

Also featured in the app are five real-life scenarios based on interactions between patients and practitioners and invites learners to choose the most appropriate action related to issues around prescription of medication and referrals to hospital.

E-learning sessions mapped to the five scenarios have also been created to give users a rounded experience of what working in a prison healthcare setting is like.

The app has been developed in partnership with Health Education England’s national nursing and midwifery directorate and NHS England’s National Health and Justice team. All resources can be accessed on the elearning for healthcare Hub.

Patricia Howe, Simulation and Immersive Technologies Programme Manager in the Technology Enhanced Learning team at Health Education England, said: “Immersive learning experiences can play a significant role in helping people considering a placement setting or career change to make an informed decision to what their new role might look like.

“The immersive technology of the VR360 app offers the closest possible experience outside a real-life prison environment.

“We hope that nurses who are interested in a career in a prison healthcare setting find this a useful tool in making their decision.”

Ellie Gordon, Senior Nurse for Learning disability and mental health, national nursing and midwifery directorate at Health Education England, said: “When we started to develop this piece of work we knew that we wanted to create something that would give student nurses an experience as close to real life as possible, without them going into a prison.

“We wanted to be able to show students that prison clinic rooms look like any other clinic room, and a prisoner is a person with health needs, it’s just in a different setting.

“Once you get used to having the head set on and let yourself relax, it is a transformative experience, and you feel as if you have been transported into a prison clinic room.

“This event needs to be experienced, even if just the once, you never know you might find prison nursing is your new calling.”



Notes to editors

The five scenarios are:

  • Orientation to placement opportunities in health and justice
  • Optimising safety and reducing risks: developing pre-placement awareness to understand potential challenges for nursing students in adult prison healthcare settings
  • Managing difficult situations using conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques in adult prison healthcare settings
  • Managing pain relief in adult prison healthcare settings
  • Caring for people who are prisoners in wider healthcare settings


For more information and to access the resource, please visit the Nursing in Adult Prison Healthcare Settings web page and the Nursing in Adult Prison Healthcare Settings programme page. Learners can also download the app to view on a virtual reality headset or on a phone with a cardboard headset.