Part 1 focused on the brain basis for why the senior care industry is ripe for the introduction of VR for education and training. In Part 1 we showed that traditional approaches to senior care education and training that utilize text or PowerPoint are often ineffective because they engage only the cognitive learning system in the brain. We show that VR approaches, on the other hand, are broadly effective and are especially effective for training the people skills (e.g., communication, responsiveness, empathy) that set the best frontline senior care professionals apart from the rest. VR does this through interactive storytelling and experiential learning that engages multiple learning systems in the brain (e.g., cognitive, behavioral, sensory, and emotional) in synchrony. Interactive storytelling and experiential learning with VR leads to better initial learning, stronger long-term retention, and a unique ability to effectively train people skills, such as empathy.
For Part 2, we explore how VR can be used to enhance frontline senior care recruiting efforts for the direct care workforce, from certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to non-clinical home health aides and the myriad roles in between. For years recruitment for these roles has appeared to be a constant uphill battle, as evidenced by headwinds from shortages, turnover, and wage costs to name a few . Although frontline staff turnover rates are difficult to estimate, a recent review conducted by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) found turnover rates between 45% and 65%. But the issues go far beyond turnover; in fact, they begin much earlier in the recruitment cycle, with candidate qualification.
Qualification is atop many organizations’ minds, even for roles with relatively low legal requirements per state regulations. And while the definition of ‘qualified’ varies by company and by state, it’s rather telling that in a 2016 CareinHomes survey, the top quality that home care companies looked for in a caregiver is someone who is compassionate and personable. An overwhelming majority—82%—said this is the most important quality in a potential hire. So it should be little surprise to us that no one is worried about a lack of applicants, only that companies are not getting the people they want.
Well, if what the overwhelming majority of recruiters are looking for first and foremost is a compassionate, personable hire to determine qualification, we would be hard-pressed to think of a better quagmire to find ourselves in, given what we now know about the benefits of virtual reality.
In this blog we set aside the question of choosing between the two types of candidates, and instead focus on how VR can be combined with traditional approaches to senior care education and training so that recruiters can be confident in hiring both types of candidates. The need for frontline senior care professionals is great. Recruiters need to be able to hire candidates with particular strengths like “compassion” or “skill” knowing full well that a candidate’s weaknesses can be addressed quickly and effectively through education and training.
The “compassionate” recruit is personable and wants to help. They are emotionally driven to “give back” and to provide seniors with comfort and care. The compassionate recruit may not have years of experience working in the senior care sector, and may even have skills gaps. They may need an overview of the industry’s many rules and regulations, or training on fall prevention measures and techniques, and even education regarding the changes in mood and memory associated with normal aging or dementia. Once hired, it is critical to fill this skills gap quickly and effectively as a passionate worker might become discouraged quickly if they are not performing their tasks effectively.
The best way to fill this skills gap is with a combination of traditional education and training through text with VR and measurable experiences. Traditional training tools provide the recruit with the necessary information on rules, regulations, fall prevention techniques, as well as details on emotional and cognitive changes. VR provides the recruits with something altogether different, yet far more impactful: experience. The recruit can experience a “Day in the Life of Senior Caregiving” where they watch the rules being followed or broken — along with the consequences. Or they might shadow a seasoned professional mitigating a fall, or experience the challenges associated with memory loss. When effective education and training of this sort is combined with the recruit’s innate passion, the hiring professional can rest assured that the frontline worker is prepared and that the residents will receive excellent care from those compassionate, skilled individuals.
The “skilled” recruit is someone who has experience in senior care or in other clinical settings. The skilled recruit knows the rules and regulations, the techniques for mitigating falls, and the emotional and cognitive challenges associated with normal aging or dementia. Where they may be lacking is in compassion and being personable. If coming from another clinical setting, the recruit may not have a deep understanding of the unique set of people skills needed in senior care or in their specific role.
This is where interactive storytelling in virtual reality truly shines.
The recruit can experience a “Day in the Life of Senior Caregiving”, much like the compassionate recruit does. However, in this case the immersive VR experiences can emphasize communication, responsiveness, and empathy by allowing the recruit to “walk a mile in a senior’s shoes”. They can obtain a first-person virtual experience with an apathetic or non-communicative frontline worker. They can obtain a first-person virtual experience of 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. These “walk a mile in my shoes” experiences are visceral. They engage emotional learning centers in the brain that quickly and effectively build empathy. When effective education and training of this sort is combined with the recruit’s strong prior skill set, the hiring professional can rest assured that the frontline worker is prepared and that the residents will receive excellent care.
In Part 3 of this series, we will explore how VR can be used to enhance onboarding programs for frontline senior care workers. It is important that frontline workers are educated and trained, but not overloaded. It is also important to understand that the brain is hardwired to forget, so education and training must be optimized.
As we will show, interactive storytelling with VR offers an onboarding solution to help address challenges that until now have gone unanswered. But most importantly these tools will provide frontline workers with the resources they need to succeed – one experience at a time.