Virginia Western Community College has purchased a new state-of-the-art virtual technology to prepare students to deliver life-saving cancer treatments.
The Virtual Environment Radiation Trainer (VERT), purchased this year using pandemic relief funding, creates a virtual radiation lab environment where students can practice skills and complete assessments.
The need for this equipment was first identified during the pandemic when students were learning remotely and practical application of skills in hospitals and clinics was halted.
The VERT equipment was first used by radiation therapy students in the spring semester. A classroom had to be retrofitted to allow for the equipment. Essentially, it’s a three-dimensional platform that allows students to see inside a patient to understand the route the radiation therapy beam follows when it goes through the body to accurately pinpoint cancerous tumors and its effects on healthy tissue. Students can access the equipment remotely on a laptop or phone.
“Our students won’t be as impacted if they are forced to learn virtually again,” said Marty Sullivan, Dean of Health Professions at Virginia Western. “For our students, hands-on learning is so critical, and this equipment ensures continuity of learning and skill
s development. It is the newest and most advanced equipment available for radiation therapy learning.”
Virginia Western was able to use money from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to purchase the $200,000 equipment. Northern Virginia Community College students can enroll in Virginia Western’s radiation therapy classes through a Joint Venture Affiliation Agreement with the College, and this new equipment allows them to complete the curriculum at a remote location without traveling to the Roanoke campus.
Admission to Virginia Western’s Associate of Applied Science in Radiation Oncology degree program is quite selective and can be completed in five continuous semesters, Sullivan said. With this degree, graduates can get jobs in any radiation oncology department in a hospital or treatment center. Recent Virginia Western graduates have found employment at Carilion Clinic and LewisGale Medical Center, as well as larger cancer treatment facilities such as Johns Hopkins University, Duke University and Memorial Sloan Kettering.