This is Part 3 of a 4-part series focused on applications of virtual reality (VR) in senior care.
In Part 1 we focused on the brain basis for why the senior care industry is ripe for the introduction of VR for education and training. Part 1 also demonstrated that VR approaches to senior care are often superior to traditional approaches because VR broadly engages multiple learning systems in the brain (e.g., experiential, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral), whereas traditional approaches engage only the cognitive learning system in the brain. VR is especially effective for training people skills, such as empathy, because of its broad engagement of emotional and experiential learning systems.
Part 2 focused on staff recruitment. Part 2 showed that recruiters do not need to choose between recruits with “compassion” or “skill” because VR education and training can mitigate any weaknesses in compassion or skill that a candidate might have. When VR is combined with traditional approaches to education and training, well-rounded and prepared employees emerge.
In the upcoming and final part of this series, we will outline an approach to combining VR and traditional training tools for continuous, ongoing senior care education and training.
For Part 3, we explore how VR can be used to enhance frontline senior care onboarding efforts for the direct care workforce, from certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to non-clinical home health aides and the myriad roles in between.
Onboarding is a critical process for at least two reasons. First, the likelihood of an accident, injury, or violation of standard operating procedures is more likely when new employees are still learning. It is important to provide new employees with as much knowledge and experience as possible, as quickly as possible, but without overloading them, to reduce these risks. Second, new employees form long-term impressions of the workplace and management within a few weeks on the job. Employees want to know that they are valued, and providing a high-quality onboarding program goes a long way toward instilling this belief in new employees.
Onboarding involves getting new employees “up to speed” as quickly and efficiently as possible. One of the best ways to learn quickly and efficiently is through experience. Experiential learning broadly engages multiple learning and memory systems in the brain in synchrony leading to fast initial learning, increased long-term retention, and ultimately behavioral learning.
VR educates and trains through experience, making it an ideal tool for senior care onboarding. VR provides experiential learning through interactive storytelling in an immersive virtual world. The learner is immersed in the story and becomes a part of it. It is interactive storytelling in VR that engages experiential, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral learning system in the brain in a time-effective, cost-effective, and scalable manner.
We now outline a number of areas in which VR could be usefully applied to i) speed the onboarding learning process; ii) strengthen long-term retention of the relevant information; and iii) build the behavioral repertoire needed in frontline senior care staff.
One of the best ways to give a new recruit a feel for their particular senior care setting as they begin the onboarding process is to have the recruit experience a “Day in the Life of Senior Caregiving”. This can begin with a virtual tour of the facility to familiarize the learner, through experience, with the layout of the facility. During the virtual tour, standard operating procedures that are most relevant in a given location can be described by the CNA tour guide. During the tour the new recruit can witness a challenging situation between two residents or between a resident and a CNA. The recruit can observe as a seasoned CNA diffuses the situation, then offers the recruit tricks and tips on how to mitigate similar situations that they might face. The new recruit can even experience an emergency situation and observe the seasoned CNA follow the emergency protocols in a calm and methodical manner.
Keep in mind that this approach can now be accomplished in a familiar, safe environment for the learner, which not only results in better-prepared hires, but also goes a long way towards demonstrating an organization’s commitment to its employees. After all, studies show that effective onboarding can improve retention rates by 52 percent, time to productivity by 60 percent, and overall satisfaction by 53 percent.
Simply put, following a 5-minute VR experience your candidate will obtain a rich interactive storytelling experience that will be both memorable and go a long way toward preparing him or her cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally for the job. This approach is much more effective than providing the recruit with text and PowerPoint showing the rules and regulations, the emergency procedures, and written tips for how to deal with challenging situations.
This “Day in the Life” experience could be followed by VR experiences focused on communication, responsiveness, and empathy. The recruit could “walk a mile in a senior’s shoes”. They can obtain a first-person virtual experience with an apathetic or non-communicative frontline worker, and could experience first-hand the senior’s frustration when a frontline worker states that they will “only be a minute”, but don’t return for ten to twenty minutes. “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” is visceral and engages emotional learning centers in the brain that quickly and effectively build empathy. These advantages are unique to VR and ought to be utilized in senior care settings.
To complement traditional text-based onboarding content, VR onboarding experiences can be developed that provide experiential training on emergency procedures, dealing with aggression or anger in a resident, understanding the changes in mood and memory associated with dementia, or keeping the home safe. The sky’s the limit!
Once a VR onboarding strategy is implemented, it is important to measure its effectiveness. Subjective surveys and objective tests of knowledge acquisition can be administered following the VR experience while the learner is in the VR headset. This way data is recorded quickly, accurately, and automatically and can be shared with nursing and HR directors. These data can also be used to identify areas of strength and weakness in the onboarding process and can be used to modify the VR experiences for future recruits.
In Part 4 of this series, we will explore how VR can be used in combination with traditional training tools for continuous, ongoing senior care education and training. Because one does not want to overload a recruit during onboarding, and because rules, regulations, and situations change, not to mention the fact that the brain is hardwired to forget, it is important to have in place a plan for continuous education and training.
As we will show, interactive storytelling with VR offers an excellent complement to traditional training solutions to help address the challenges of continuous education and training. These tools will provide frontline workers with the resources they need to succeed – one experience at a time.