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VR Training to Educate Hospice Workers on Handling the Terminally Ill

Hospice providers offer care to patients on the brink of death. Handling and responding to these patients is a tricky affair. Often hospice workers may fail to provide the necessary care and comfort to their terminally ill subjects. To rectify this, the Hospice of Southern Maine has started incorporating virtual reality training for its staff.

Embodied Labs, a leading vender of this VR tech approached the hospice in 2018 with the proposal of launching a simulated training course. The main idea of this training was to improve the staff’s interactions with end-of-life patients.

The building blocks of this technology

Virtual reality is not a new technology by any means. It has been present in some form or the other in the last few decades. However, VR tech has recently gained traction across all sectors and fields. To leverage virtual reality for the terminally ill, Embodied Labs visited the hospice premises and interacted with patients and staff there. This gave them a better understanding of these patients’ needs.

How the VR tech trains workers

The vender then went back to the drawing board and devised a programme called ‘Clay Lab’. hospice workers hook to the VR headset and take on the role of a 66-year old terminally ill patient, named Clay. According to the story, Clay suffers from incurable lung cancer. Workers control Clay’s movements and actions as he receives the terminal diagnosis from doctors.

As the story proceeds, Clay suffers a fall, which causes him to seek hospice care. There, he finally experiences the final days of his life before dying.

The VR-simulated story of Clay and his final days can give hospice workers a better insight into the whole process. Since it is not just a video, but an interactive experience, workers feel as if they are Clay and they received the incurable diagnosis.

Those who completed the Clay Labs module claim that they feel more empowered to help people with a terminal diagnosis. Additionally, subjects report a reduced sense of helplessness and fear of death. In some cases, the module proved too effective, as hospice workers were often emotionally overwhelmed with Clay’s story.

Daryl Cady, CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine, claims that to better support his staff during the training, chaplains and counsellors were made available for the workers. This helped them complete the module and experience the entire interactive story.

Hospice workers claim it is a life-altering experience

However, this technology has greater potential than simply training hospice workers. Customers of Embodied Labs have experienced the simulation as well, in an effort to promote community outreach and patient education.

After undergoing the VR experience, patients came out with a more favourable view of hospice care, making them more likely to seek such help if required in the future.

This is yet another example of virtual reality’s potential in medicine. Apart from helping patients deal with their diagnosis, such tech will improve quality of care with carefully constructed training simulations for care providers. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are expected to further speed up the integration of VR technology across the scientific and industrial spheres.

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