VR Training for Emergencies – VR Revolutionizes the ER

Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer programs to create a 3D simulated realistic world. In this virtual universe, users can see, hear, feel, and interact in real-time. Since this product’s initial release 30 years ago, it has taken off and made its way into the medical field. VR can be used for a myriad of purposes in the medical world, but some of the biggest uses for VR  is training surgeons, training nurses, and creating realistic emergency simulations. VR Training for Emergencies are a game changer for the industry.

Benefits of Using VR Training for Emergencies

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 60% of United States employees didn’t practice what to do in a disaster, and never took part in any disaster training at work. Let’s reflect on this for a moment. In emergency situations and catastrophes, we look to first responders and emergency workers for guidance, but how are they supposed to help us, when they themselves are not prepared for what to do in a disaster?  The use of VR in Emergency training helps prepare first responders for the tough reality of their day to day.  With virtual reality, ER professionals are exposed to high-pressure situations where every second counts.  Highly dangerous and risky situations are created in a safe environment so they can be trained for when a catastrophe happens in real life. 

Using VR for emergency training gives employers a cost-effective and time-efficient method, at zero risk . While there are many advantages to using VR in the ER, the top benefits are safety, cost and scalability, efficiency, and the endless customization possibilities. To see some VR ER scenarios, visit MetaMedicsVR Simulations.

Safety in the ER with VR Training for Emergencies

In the medical field, one of the biggest factors that should be kept in mind at all times is safety. Safety is a vital part of the medical practice, and that should not be any different for emergency medical training. Traditional emergency room training attempts to be as hands-on and interactive as possible, but there is only so much training that can prepare you for being thrown into a real-life emergency for the first time. Additionally, having first responders reporting to an emergency for the first time, with little hands-on experience, is not only extremely stressful for them but also risky for the patient whose life is at risk.  

Before VR, one of the ways first responders got hands-on practice was the “recreation” of emergency situations. In these instances, trainers would organize events with actors who would pretend to be in an emergency. While this is a creative alternative, because of the nature of emergencies, they cannot be ‘recreated’ to help train healthcare professionals. Additionally, one cannot physically train techniques on healthy individuals, so while these methods seem okay in practice, it is nowhere near the real thing. How will doctors, nurses, and first responders be prepared for when a catastrophe happens, if they have never experienced or seen one firsthand? Now, with the help of VR, medical professionals are able to train in a simulated universe with minimal to no risks and feel like they are actually there assisting with an emergency. 

When it comes to learning new skills and perfecting them, there is a definite learning curve, and room for mistakes. However, when a person’s life is at stake, that room for mistakes is almost non-existent, which is another reason VR can be so instrumental in ER training. Practicing and perfecting how to prioritize and work under pressure in real time, helps trainees “fail correctly” and learn from their mistakes, without putting someone’s life in jeopardy.

Why VR Training for Emergencies an Efficient Method

VR training in the ER is a relatively new method of training, but it has proven to be one of the most efficient methods of ER training. While attempting to recreate disasters and catastrophes draws a moral line, that is not the only barrier with this method. Another reason organizing a fake emergency is not a viable option, is the lack of time, resources, and money this option requires. If VR is implemented in ER training, it will not only save time, but it will save resources. Standard and current ER training methods usually include a mix of classroom based and web based instruction with minimal hands-on training. One of the biggest challenges of these traditional disaster preparedness methods is the amount of resources and time this takes. 

Using a VR simulation, however, takes up less time because trainees are able to do the VR training courses on their own time. They are also able to redo them as many times as they want to, and the courses can be accessed from anywhere, which is another big advantage to implementing VR in healthcare training. The Human Factors research group at the University of Nottingham developed a study to test the cognitive engagement of VR training versus traditional training methods using powerpoint. There were multiple tests conducted during this study, but in the test that measured the effectiveness of each training method, participants from both training group took a questionnaire to test their knowledge, both right after the training as well as another one a week later. Although the participants that were trained through the powerpoints showed that they gained more knowledge right after the training, there was an exponential decrease in the knowledge scores when retested a week later. The VR participants, however, were reported to have better long term retention rates, as well as higher levels of engagement and more willingness to participate in more ER training in the future. 

Not only is VR in the ER more time efficient, it is also more cost-efficient than standard training methods. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) recently conducted a study in which they conducted two similar emergency training sessions, but one using VR, and the other using a live disaster exercise with mannequins. These two experiments were conducted to train neonatal intensive care workers in a hospital evacuation. After both of these training sessions took place, they looked at both experiments side by side, and compared the costs and efficiency of each one. In the end, it was concluded that while VR seems more expensive in its upfront costs (equipment and simulation), the cost per participant ended up being $229.79 (coming to a total of $18,617.54 per exercise), where as the live exercise ended up being $327.78 per participant (with a total of $106,951.14 per exercise). This study alone shows the amount of money and time that can be saved by implementing VR training in the ER.

Endless Possibilities and Customization with Emergencies VR Training

Another huge advantage of using VR for ER training is its versatile nature and ability for it to be tailored to any situation or environment. There are a number of different simulations that can be created for ER training, but some of the big ones are road crashes, fire, fuel leaks, chemical accidents, and natural disasters. With VR simulation, these events can be mirrored in a virtual world, and trainees can see and interact with these catastrophes in real time. 

VR is the only current training method where trainees can act with their hands and engage all of their senses in a virtual environment. VR gives participants the ability to hear, smell, touch, and interact with their surroundings in real time, like they are in a real life emergency. Some of the emergency scenarios that VR can currently replicate  are fires and gas leaks, plane crashes, epidemics, and bomb threats. 

VR is no different than real life, meaning, every second counts in an emergency. In a fire and gas leak simulation, participants will arrive at the emergency and will be immediately challenged to implement their critical thinking skills, and apply all of their emergency protocol knowledge to the situation. They must work under pressure to complete the 5 important tasks to protect lives and property from a fire or gas leak. First, they must locate and document the nature and severity of the emergency. Next, they must determine if there are any ignition sources that could turn the situation deadly. After all of the ignition sources are identified, they must follow all of the protocols to evacuate the premise and block off the area around the leak. Next, they must work with dispatch, the fire department, and the residents of the property to control the citation. Finally, they must actively observe the complicating factors, such as the changing gas levels and environmental conditions. 

Every VR emergency situation operates similar to this one, where trainees are put into a live simulation and they must evaluate the situation and determine the vital steps to be taken. These ER exercises and training courses teach trainees how to actively respond to emergency situations while under pressure, but with no lives on the line.

How Can I Implement VR to Practice for Emergencies?

VR training is the future of the ER, and the future of medical and healthcare training. To learn more about how to implement VR in your ER, visit MetaMedicsVR. Whether you are a nurse practitioner, a first responder, a surgeon, or work in healthcare, there is a VR solution that can be tailored to your needs. When lives are on the line, textbooks and powerpoint slides don’t cut it, schedule a free 15-minute consulting call now to learn more about how you can use VR training in your ER.