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Bend startup brings VR training to health care workers volunteering for COVID work

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As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, health care workers are the frontline heroes. They are under intense pressure, with a lack of protective equipment, and in many areas, a lack of personnel to deal with the surge of patients. Many retired and part-time health care workers are being activated to support in the fight against the virus.

Shift, a women-founded virtual reality training company in Bend, Oregon, is refocusing its efforts to provide virtual reality training for newly activated health care personnel. The company normally develops VR training to combat bias in organizations.

“There are medical personnel in areas who are being laid off and have the opportunity to volunteer or get employed to fight COVID but have no real knowledge of how to deal with this virus,” said Wendy Morgan, CEO and co-founder of Shift. “They need training on PPE and proper precautions but they’re not getting it, and they could risk spreading the virus.” 

With VR people can be trained in an engaging way without being exposed to risk and without using protective equipment that is needed for front line workers. Through VR, people can learn and practice in a realistic environment, with full movement, before having to step into a hospital.

Shift’s life-like training will consist of 15 to 20 minutes of VR, will be used to teach personnel key skills such as proper choice and use of personal protective equipment, patient personal care and hygiene, and COVID-19 test procedures. The University of Portland School of Nursing will provide the curriculum and scenarios needed to create the training.

“We have secured grant funding and are seeking additional funding because this training needs to be free,” Morgan said. “We need to create a training where geography is not a barrier, financial issues are not a barrier, time is not a barrier.”

Funding provided by Lane Workforce Partnership will enable Shift to develop training for the state of Oregon that will be supported for several months. The training will be on Oculus Quest devices, which are untethered and allow hand tracking. The training will be at 15 sites across the state and each location will have five Quest headsets on site and staff trained on how to sanitize the equipment.

Hundreds of people throughout the state will be able to access the curriculum each day, Morgan said. For people who are unable to travel for training, Shift will also be rolling out a 2D mobile app.

“We want people to know that we’ve postponed all of our other revenue-generating activities to prioritize this training and focus on what’s needed this minute,” said COO and co-founder, Maggie Hubbell. “We can be responsive as the crisis develops.”

Shift’s efforts have already received a lot of interest, and potential partnerships and funding are in the works to expand the usability and trackability of the training.


This is part of a regular guest column written by the Technology Association of Oregon in the Portland Business Journal.

 

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