Health Scholars has launched a study to assess the value of VR training among emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in three Colorado fire districts.
The study is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and will analyze whether VR-based training improves learning gains compared to traditional training on the assessment of pediatric emergencies. Pediatric preparedness is especially important since children account for only a small percentage of pre-hospital emergencies but pose a special challenge to EMS providers. Compared to adults, children have anatomical and physiological differences that mask early indicators of severe illness and make resuscitation difficult to manage.
“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 Brian Gillett, MD, president of Health Scholars. “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.”
The study will assess the cost, effectiveness, and differences in voice-directed VR training compared to traditional learning methods among three fire districts, one urban and two rural: Arvada Fire & Rescue in suburban Denver, and Los Pinos and Upper Pine River Fire Protection Districts in southwestern Colorado. EMS providers in the three districts will use Health Scholars’ Pediatric Emergency Assessment™ VR Simulation Training with Oculus Quest 2 headsets.
“Participating in the NIST VR study will help us to understand the value of virtual reality training and how to integrate it into our systems,” said Bruce Evans, Upper Pine River Fire Chief and President of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). “The goal is to better prepare our frontlines for pediatric emergencies which helps to strengthen the whole community.”
Currently, pediatric emergency preparedness training is difficult to prioritize among EMS, especially in rural fire agencies, because it can be time-consuming, costly, and labor-intensive.
“By virtualizing training, rural EMS organizations are now able to integrate more immersive training practices,” said Dr. Gillett. “We look forward to these agencies trying VR technology, which gives them an additional training modality that easily scales to any number of providers, is significantly less expensive than traditional physical simulation, and provides performance reporting that is actionable.”
A 2020 study conducted by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found that Health Scholars VR reduces the cost of Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) training by 83% when compared to traditional mannequin simulation training. The training can also take place and be completed during down time — an important factor for rural EMS agencies where volunteer fire fighters often have to take time off from their primary jobs to take part in day-long and often distant training sessions.