Virtual Reality Evacuation Training At Children's

Feb 15, 2016

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's newborn intensive-care unit (NICU) simulated a real emergency this past weekend and evacuated pretend patients and their equipment. The medical staff performed well. But could virtual reality training improve the results for next year's drill?

Wright State researcher Sherry Farra wondered that and has a three-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to study it.

WVXU's Ann Thompson tries out one emergency scenario using the Oculus Rift.
Credit Eric Hodgson

She partnered with Eric Hodgson, director of the Smale Interactive Visualization Center at Miami University. He and his students designed an exact replica of the Children's NICU to use in four different scenarios with the Oculus Rift.

The training is intense because of the complex nature of evacuating fragile patient populations. Whitney Brady is the nursing director at Children's. "They range anywhere from having open crib with no equipment, to having a ventilator with several IVs, to lots of equipment."

Farra says the virtual training has many advantages including flexibility for staff who work different shifts. She also says the exercises really can tell if employees can effectively evacuate these fragile patients. "So, a lot of times with this type of research people just do like a cognitive test, a multiple choice test to see if it worked or not but we wanted to go beyond that to where we were looking at the performance and the skill."

University of Cincinnati researchers are also part of the study.