// With further development in the field of Virtual Reality (VR) technology comes a new learning environment for Perth paramedics.
Many of us know VR technology from video games, popularised by the release of the Oculus Rift three years ago. In Perth, Edith Cowan University researchers and educators are using VR technology to train paramedics in new and engaging ways.
What is VR?
Virtual Reality is a type of wearable technology that has become more and more accessible in recent years, especially in gaming. Most VR rigs are set up with a pair of large goggles and a separate screen for each eye on the inside. These project slightly different images onto each eye, making an image the brain will perceive as three-dimensional, in much the same way we perceive the non-digital world.
To be able to interact with this 360-degree virtual world, users need some kind of controller. These controllers can either be handheld wands like PlayStation’s model, the BeBop Data Glove which you wear, or other crafty controllers like Nintendo’s cardboard Labo designs.
How is it helping new paramedics?
Through the use of VR, ECU students are training to respond to mass-casualty events and natural disasters. By being able to simulate real-time environmental disasters or crises, paramedics can learn how to cope with these circumstances in a far more hands-on manner than ever before. The project won “Most Transformative Impact on Education” at the 2019 Incite Awards.
Students using the technology will be able to interact with the environment and the simulated patients. Students can also be assessed and receive performance feedback through the simulated program.
Designed by ECU lecturers and researchers within paramedicine, gaming, VR and motion capture, the innovative faculty has also used Hollywood makeup to simulate realistic injuries to train paramedicine students.
The future of VR in medicine
VR has already been used to help students visualise internal organ structures and surgeries. This could be making it a more engaging tool than static models and illustrations.
Students were previously taught to respond to crises through live re-enactments or seminars, which are resource-heavy and require the coordination of many different variables. Actors may give differing performances and feedback to students can vary. As they were based in the classroom, it was hard for students to get a realistic handle on what an actual medical crisis might be like.
This [technology] allows the user to look around the scene in every direction, as if they are really there. The scene features actors with different injuries and in varying states of distress. The user can interact with these actors in the simulation to get information about their vital signs, including their heart rate and breathing.Dr Brennen Mills, ECU School of Medical and Health Sciences
Dr Brennen Mills, an ECU School of Medical and Health Sciences researcher who worked on the project, stated that the VR could also help students learn situational awareness. Large-scale events are hard to simulate in any other realistic way. Paramedics need to make split-second decisions in these situations. So, a more complex virtual simulation can help students learn to prioritise certain patients.
Mass casualty events are chaotic and confronting. The focus of paramedics who first arrive at the scene won’t be to treat patients, but to gauge the urgency of each wounded person to decide the order of treatment when more resources arrive.Dr Mills
VR will also help to ensure that all students view the exact same simulation and get the same experience.
“We are also able to capture data on how people interact with the VR experience,” said Virtual Guest founder and CEO Brandon D’Silva, “which will allow us to modify and improve it going forward.”