New Study: Comparing Effectiveness of VR, Face-to-Face, and Video Training for PPE Skills During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Among the unparalleled challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers have been at the forefront, combating the virus while striving to ensure their own safety. With over 676 million cases and 6.88 million deaths documented worldwide as of November 2023, the significance of proper infection prevention measures, including the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cannot be overstated.

Due to the pandemic, traditional face-to-face training sessions for healthcare workers on wearing and removing PPE have become challenging. As a result, virtual reality (VR) training has emerged as a promising alternative.

“In recent years, advances in science and technology have revealed the usefulness of web-and video-based distance education as an alternative to traditional face-to-face instruction,” the investigators wrote. “This shift towards digital platforms has been particularly important in the field of medical education, where innovative methods are constantly explored to enhance learning and skill acquisition. Among these innovations, VR has emerged as an alternative to conventional face-to-face training in medical education. Virtual reality training is beneficial because it wastes no time and is not bound by time and space, and several studies have reported its effectiveness in knowledge and skill retention.”

A new study published today titled “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Training in Teaching Personal Protective Equipment Skills: A Randomized Clinical Trial” has been published today in JAMA Network Open. The study was conducted at Teikyo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, and aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of 360° VR training in improving the PPE skills of prospective healthcare workers as compared to traditional face-to-face and video-based training methods. The study, a blinded, prospective, and randomised non-inferiority clinical trial conducted from August to December 2021, involved second-to-fourth-year medical, medical technology, and pharmacy students with no prior PPE training.

“Results of this trial indicate that VR training was as effective as face-to-face training in enhancing PPE donning and doffing skills and was superior to video training. The findings suggest that VR training is a viable resource-conserving training option,” wrote the study’s authors.

Participants were randomised into 3 groups: the VR group, which trained with an immersive 360° VR tool; the face-to-face group, which trained with actual PPE; and the video group, which trained by watching instructional videos. After a standard 30-minute lecture on PPE procedures, each group underwent hands-on training tailored to their respective modalities. Three days later, participants were evaluated on their practical PPE donning and doffing skills through a standardised examination.

The results of the study were both promising and illuminating. While all 3 training modalities demonstrated effectiveness in enhancing PPE skills, the VR training stood out as particularly noteworthy. Participants in the VR group performed on par with those in the face-to-face group and significantly outperformed those in the video group. This finding underscores the potential of VR training as a viable and effective resource-conserving option for teaching critical PPE skills, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

What sets VR training apart is its ability to provide an immersive and interactive learning experience that closely simulates real-world scenarios. By leveraging high-quality 360° imagery and recordings, VR training offers participants the opportunity to practice PPE procedures in a safe and controlled virtual environment. Moreover, VR training is not bound by time or space constraints, making it accessible to a broad audience regardless of geographical location or logistical challenges.

The efficacy of VR training in enhancing PPE skills among healthcare practitioners represents a significant step forward in the fight against COVID-19. As we navigate the complexities of the ongoing pandemic and prepare for future health crises, investments in innovative training modalities like VR are essential. By harnessing the power of technology, we can empower healthcare workers with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and others while delivering high-quality care in challenging environments.

Reference: “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Training in Teaching Personal Protective Equipment Skills” A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open. 2024;7(2):e2355358.doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.55358