COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State University researchers are using virtual reality to train first responders in preparing for mass casualty events.
“We’re training first responders, we bring the headsets out, we bring a laptop, they put the headsets on, and they get the opportunity to take care of victims of a subway bombing,” said Dr. Nicholas Kman, an emergency medicine professor with the Ohio State College of Medicine.
Kman serves as an instructor for the virtual reality training, which was funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
He said the program allows first responders to perform lifesaving medical treatment in a simulated but active environment. He said the training isn’t only more efficient, but also more cost-effective.
“We used to have to teach with a large-scale disaster drill, and we’d have moulaged patients or mannequins,” Kman said. “I mean, this is so much quicker, and it’s able to be repeated by the learner.”
Meanwhile, the program is benefiting local medical students.
“It really immerses all of your senses, and you get more acclimated to that environment and kind of the intensity of it,” said Melinda Kizziah, an emergency medicine resident at Ohio State. “It’s just a different level, and so I think it will be really helpful.”
The training has already been used at several local EMS services including Worthington, Westerville, and Delaware County, with more than 200 first responders in central Ohio having taken the course.
“After the training that we had down there with Ohio State, it kind of led us down a path of bringing more VR training to Delaware County,” said Jeff Fishel, director of Delaware County EMS.
For nine days, the VR training was held for all of Delaware County EMS.
Fishel said the program was so popular, several members of their staff are learning how to become instructors with the VR technology.
“The benefits are beyond imaginable,” Fishel said. “It takes a lot less logistics, a lot less money, and the ability to train more often that way, only aids the people that we provide service to.”
Ohio State is also taking this training to more local fire departments and hospitals, with plans to expand the program into a cooperative mode so that first responders can work together.