DC5: VR-based assessment and training of situation awareness in emergency care teams


This research builds on research highlighting the relevance of non-technical skills, in particular (shared) situation awareness to high performance in dynamic acute care scenarios. Taking into account the known challenges of assessing and training situation awareness at the team level, this project will develop a reliable method for VR/AR-based assessment of clinicians’ (shared) situation awareness and identify relationships between situation awareness and performance in emergency care teams.

We will use this evidence to develop a VR/AR-based training module for an emergency care setting to train these skills effectively. In doing so, this study combines team performance research with the use of innovative technology, such as virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) that offers new opportunities to incorporate the measurement of critical non-technical skills seamlessly into training scenarios and thus allows for more personalized and tailored training approaches.

The School of Applied Psychology at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland invites applicants with a background in psychology, sociology, health sciences, industrial design for a PhD fellowship at the interface of teamwork and technology in healthcare.

The position is affiliated with the MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS Doctoral Networks (DN) Tools4Teams funded by the European Commission. Tools4Teams aims to establish a European training network to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurial, collaborative experts to contribute to safer and effective care. This requires an international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary approach with expertise from the domains of behavioral science, human centered design, clinical practice, healthcare organization and implementation, education and training, data science and industry.


The focus of this PhD fellowship is to utilize VR/AR technology to assess and improve non-technical skills with a particular focus on situation awareness (SA) in emergency care teams. The goals of the project will be achieved through: (1) establishing a VR-based methodology to reliably assess SA during a VR-based emergency care scenario, (2) analysing and understanding situational cues that help or hinder SA in VR-based emergency care scenarios, (3) investigating the relationship between SA and several performance markers related to team performance and quality of care and (4) developing VR-based trainings to improve SA of healthcare providers in emergency care.

Our research team

You will join the Patient Safety Research team at the School of Applied Psychology at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. Safety and Security is a main research focus of our school and the use of innovative digital technologies to study the optimal interplay of humans, technology and organisations is one of our key competences. For this project we are collaborating with a research group at a major Swiss hospital that has extensive experience of the application of innovative VR-based training methods to emergency medicine and also grants access to clinical and simulated emergency care seetings.

During this project there is the opportunity to go on two secondments for 2-3 months. The first is to the University of Galway in Ireland in order to broaden research expertise on situation awareness and gain experience in collaborating with researchers from another European University. The second is to a VR-company in order to gain industry experience with a focus on VR-development.

Your experience

  • Master’s degree in psychology, health sciences, or related fields
  • Excellent skills in quantitative and qualitative research methods; prior experience in conducting systematic reviews would be an advantage
  • A strong interest in interdisciplinary teamwork and research collaboration with healthcare and industry partners
  • Curiosity and willingness to acquire additional competencies (e.g., working with VR technologies)
  • Previous experience working with VR-technologies or with teamwork / team training in healthcare or other high risk work environments is an advantage
  • Evidence of excellent communication and organisational skills; and
  • High proficiency in spoken and written English. German language is required for data collection and analysis as well as for interactions with collaborating hospitals.

Our offer

The position is available from September 1st, 2023 and will give promising researchers an opportunity for academic development leading to a doctoral degree. Candidates will apply to become part of a PhD program at the Medical Faculty at University of Bern, Switzerland. The employment period as PhD fellow on this project is three years.

This PhD position is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) of the European Union’s “Horizon Europe 2022” research and innovation program under grant agreement No 101072843. The MSCA programme offers competitive and attractive working conditions. The successful candidates will receive a salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for doctoral candidates. Gross salary will consist of a Living Allowance (= €40.800/year, correction factor to be applied for Switzerland: 1.286) and a monthly Mobility Allowance of €600. An additional monthly allowance of €660 is applicable depending on family situation. Please be aware that these amounts are subject to taxes, the exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment. The research project should result in a PhD thesis.

Application process

You can apply using the online application form. For more information about the position, you can contact tanja.manser@fhnw.ch. For more information see the recruitment process.

University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)

FHNW is one of Switzerland’s leading universities of applied sciences and arts with about 13’000 students in over 50 degree programs. Its innovative, application-oriented research and global network make FHNW a sought-after partner to industry and an attractive employer in northwestern Switzerland. The School of Applied Psychology at FHNW is one of the leading centers of excellence for work, organizational and business psychology in Europe. With our research we create knew knowledge and innovative, human-centered solutions for pressing issues in industry and society.