PPE Customization: Here to Stay?

With the advent of personalized medicine, industries are learning that they can customize their products and services to each client. The PPE industry is no outlier, and has taken to offering customized PPE at a level of specificity that will be able to serve any industry with any need.

Virtual Reality: The Future of Safety Training

To many people, virtual reality (VR) is nothing more than an entertaining pastime for gamers. Several safety-related industries, however, are using VR as a practical tool that provides training for its employees.

It may seem futuristic or impractical, but does VR training actually work? In the fields of law enforcement and healthcare, specifically, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Law Enforcement

Training in new police recruits comes along with several potential pitfalls. If the training takes place in a safe environment, it tends to feel unrealistic and therefore fails to serve its purpose. Conducting a training session in a realistic environment, however, is often impractical or dangerous.

For example, imagine trying to train law enforcement officers in techniques they should use when closing down a busy highway. Explaining to the officers what steps they should take does not ensure that they will be able to act under pressure with cars speeding by them.

That’s where virtual reality comes in. This technology can deliver the audio and visual stimulation that the officers would typically encounter on a busy highway, while keeping them in the safety of a training room. This immersive experience gives them hands-on practice in dealing with different types of stressful situations.

VR has also been developed to teach officers communication and de-escalation skills, as well as empathy towards the various individuals they may come into contact with. For example, one study of this technique at Stanford had half of the study’s participants watch a video about what it would be like to be homeless; the other half used VR to actually embody someone who was homeless. The study found that VR participants had higher levels of empathy after the training than the comparison group.

Medical Personnel

Along with other new tech solutions, first responders and physicians have begun to turn to virtual reality to alleviate the shortcomings of other types of training. For example, although physicians have practiced their skills on cadavers for years, these trainings are expensive and limit the number of practice runs that each trainee can take. And while web-based trainings have become common for medical professionals, they are not interactive, and therefore they do not teach the skills as well as a true simulation. In contrast to these training techniques, virtual reality is a safe and inexpensive way for medical professionals to gain experience with hands-on skills in three dimensions. 

 For example, VR training can teach trainees how to use ultrasound-guided technology (such as inserting a central line into a vein, a procedure that takes intense hand-eye coordination and experience to do well). Professionals who are conducting the training can connect the VR glasses to their laptops, enabling them to see “through the trainee’s eyes.” This can help them give the trainee appropriate feedback.

 Virtual reality can also help trainees see the anatomy of the human body in a three-dimensional model, enabling them to better understand how the different systems in one area of the body work together. That way they can better understand the pathophysiology that is at play inside of a patient’s body.

Furthermore, first responders like EMTs can use VR technology to practice triaging patients and treating them correctly at the scene.

Donning and Doffing PPE

In addition to its typical medical applications, VR technology can also be helpful in instructing frontline healthcare workers, as well as workers in other industries, to don and doff PPE safely. The donning and doffing process can be complex, and research shows that VR is much more effective in teaching the process than typical training programs.

For example, in one study done at the BC Women’s Hospital, 70% of those in the VR group were able to complete a complex donning and doffing sequence correctly, compared to only 20% of those in the control group.

Not only that, but VR makes these training sessions more engaging and memorable. It also preserves PPE, since it does not use up PPE during trainings. This is especially critical during periods where PPE is difficult to procure, such as during the COVID-19 PPE crisis in the early years of the pandemic.

In general, VR trainings in many different safety-related fields are immersive and interactive, cost-effective and safe. Perhaps most importantly, they create some level of stress in trainees; that means that when those trainees later encounter a stressful situation, they will feel more comfortable making decisions and taking action. While VR has plenty of room for growth, it seems obvious that more and more trainings, especially in safety-related fields, will turn to these types of simulations for safe and effective ways to teach new skills to their employees.

Is Reshoring Enough?

Many believe that reshoring is the best way to fix the supply chain. Others, though, believe that reshoring alone would be insufficient to create the necessary change.  See why in this article.