Health Scholars, a Denver-based virtual reality startup, launched a study in April to determine the efficacy of VR training for emergency medical services personnel in three Colorado fire districts, …
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Health Scholars, a Denver-based virtual reality startup, launched a study in April to determine the efficacy of VR training for emergency medical services personnel in three Colorado fire districts, including the Arvada Fire Protection District. The study is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and also includes the Los Pinos and Upper Pine River Fire Protection Districts.
The AFPD has been using Health Scholars VR training modules since the end of 2018, according to EMS Captain Robert Putfark. The program began with Advanced Cardiac Life Support Training and expanded to include Pediatric Emergency Assessment training earlier this year. About half of the AFPD's 150 first responders have participated in the training.
The training calls for the participant to wear a virtual reality headset, which shutters their vision from the outside world and features a screen that plays an interactive simulation. Trainees then use a microphone to respond to the scenario given by the simulation, giving commands and answering questions in order to resolve the situation.
Putfark said the importance of the VR training — specifically the PEA module — is to prepare first responders for uniquely situations they may not get much practice dealing with.
“Less than 10% of our calls are related to children,” said Putfark. “And most of those aren't sick pediatrics, so there are times when paramedics or EMT's don't have a pediatric call for six months, nine months. The idea of being able to put on the headset is to jump in anytime.”
Dr. Brian Gillett, president of Health Scholars, echoed Putfark's comments on the importance of staying ready to respond to low-frequency situations.
“Unless providers are practicing pediatric assessment frequently, the nuance and critical skills needed to effectively assess and treat a child will decay over time,” said Gillett in a statement. “This study marks an important effort to measure what happens when location, time and availability of in-person training for EMS providers are no longer challenges, thanks to the use of VR.”
Putfark said that his team worked with Health Scholars to develop the environments and scenarios included in the training modules, which lead to the modules being set in homes to mimic lifelike emergency response situations.
The response to the VR training has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Putfark.
“They were like `That was incredible,'” said Putfark. “It's like boom, you're in a kid's nursery and there's a kid right there and you've just got to tell them what you're thinking and observe the kid and do an assessment that way. They really enjoyed it, they enjoyed the fact that it was pediatric, and they don't get a lot of pediatric exposure.”
AFPD participants in the study are currently taking post-training tests that will be included in the study, which is set to come out later this year. Putfark and Upper Pines Fire Chief Bruce Evans will present their experience with the training at the Colorado State EMS Conference in November.
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