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Photo credit: UPenn

On the weekend I did a first aid course. I think we can all agree that First Aid courses are super valuable, and well worth doing. The one I did I was aimed at parents of young children and babies, and how you might apply various first aid and CPR to your children should you need to. It was a really well presented course, but as I left I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to work, and dream up how VR might make this an even more valuable learning experience.

This is what we did:

We did heaps of theory, but for the practical stuff, this is how it went down. Our instructor verbally gave us a scenario where we were at a backyard BBQ and we noticed one of the children was choking on some food. We had to immediately take the mannequin provided in front of us, and perform the chocking manoeuvre we’d just learnt. Then our instructor yelled that they’d stopped breathing, so we had to quickly move the mannequin into position to start CPR. You get the idea – we were told different things were happening and we had to react appropriately. Chocking, vomiting, patient is responding, patient is still not responding, you have an over-zealous friend in your face while you’re doing CPR – react to that, etc.

I have to say, that this method was great – it really made you think quickly on your feat about what you had to do next, and in a group setting this was a really helpful way to learn.

BUT, what if, as part of the class, each person had a turn with a VR experience as well.

Hands up if you’ve experienced VR before? It is IMMERSIVE. Seriously immersive. It’s like the world around you is gone and you can easily embrace the VR world you’re seeing.

VR First Aid:

So imagine this. In my VR world I’m walking around at a BBQ and I notice (no one tells me) that a child is choking. Straight away I have to just react and remember what to do. Then I notice the signs (for myself, no one is telling me) that they’re not breathing, and I start CPR. I continue until I have to respond differently, or the child starts breathing again. For this to work I’d still have the mannequin in front of me, and would perform the manoeuvres on the mannequin, making the VR experience all the more powerful, because my brain accepts the VR world, and sees this mannequin as a child.

The obvious benefit to training this way is the fact that I have to respond based on my own observations, not an instructor telling me what I’m seeing. The more amazing (terrifying, difficult, complex) thing though, would be the panic I would experience throughout my body, as I noticed these things happening in my VR world. And while this sounds like an incredibly distressing things to experience, it is also the facts of choking. If one day my child is choking, I do not want to be paralysed with fear or panic – I want to have experienced that already, and practiced calming myself down, thinking rationally, and doing what needs to be done. VR can help me practice this.

Pros, Cons, and Thoughts to consider:

It’s an interesting things to consider, right?! Are there training scenarios too graphic or confronting for VR, or would this be a helpful tool for gaining composure in high-stress situations? Perhaps there is a middle road… experiencing VR first aid, but with the patients looking less life-like.

I’d love to know your thoughts!


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Related Reading:

I’ve put together some links to some related reading –

“Virtual reality ‘Chinook’ created to help train medics in UK Armed Forces” – Telegraph UK

“Changing the face of healthcare with VR” – Filmora

“Virtual reality enhanced mannequin (VREM) that is well received by resuscitation experts” – Resuscitation Journal