Nursing course claims a world first 


Charles Darwin University (CDU) has created the world’s first online teaching hospital, which allows student nurses to admit and care for patients in a ‘virtual hospital’.

The Charles Darwin University vHospital allows nurses to care for patients, from triaging them in the emergency department through the patient journey to definitive treatment and discharge.

Already six ‘patients’ have been scoped for the vHospital with a variety of ailments ranging from an enlarged prostate to kidney disease, diabetes, heart problems, breast cancer and a fractured hip.

Associate Professor Isabelle Ellis, who has been working on the development of online courses since 1998 says, ‘Case-based learning allows nursing students to synthesise  their learning from a variety of subject areas to solve practical nursing problems in a way that realistically mirrors their future professional role.’

Charles Darwin vHospital evolved from the need to produce authentic learning material for the nursing course’s many external students.

Charles Darwin University is one of only two universities in Australia, offering the Bachelor of Nursing degree through external studies, particularly to meet the needs of rural and remote students.

‘The virtual hospital will give students the opportunity to practice their decision-making skills on simulated patients before they get into a real hospital environment,’ said Associate Professor Ellis.

‘We are confident CDU is the only nursing course in the world to have created this kind of simulated, interactive, online teaching-hospital environment,’ she says.

Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services staff member Ted Murphy has volunteered to play the role of virtual patient Peter Abbott – the first patient in the vHospital.

‘It’s great to be involved in an innovative learning project that helps the Territory’s future nurses,’ said Mr Murphy.

In creating an authentic learning environment Charles Darwin University nursing educators have given their first patient a number of complications that will test the student nurses’ skills in dealing with problems of both a social and physical nature.

‘Our first virtual patient “Peter Abbott” is an Indigenous politician whose emergency department treatment must be performed on election-day,’ says Associate Professor Ellis.

‘Each patient in the vHospital will have an extensive background story, so nursing students will need to recognise the range of issues they need to consider when planning the patient’s care,’ she says.

Other volunteers will play patients in case being prepared for the vHospital, a special website accessible only to CDU nursing students.

Applications for mid year admissions to study nursing with CDU are now open.

To apply or for more information about studying Nursing on campus or externally with Charles Darwin University, visit