An Immersive Multi-User Virtual Reality for Emergency Simulation Training: Usability Study
Background: Virtual reality (VR) is increasingly used as simulation technology in emergency medicine education and training, in particular for training nontechnical skills. Experimental studies comparing teaching and learning in VR with traditional training media often demonstrate the equivalence or even superiority regarding particular variables of learning or training effectiveness. Objective: In the EPICSAVE (Enhanced Paramedic Vocational Training with Serious Games and Virtual Environments) project, a highly immersive room-scaled multi-user 3-dimensional VR simulation environment was developed. In this feasibility study, we wanted to gain initial insights into the training effectiveness and media use factors influencing learning and training in VR. Methods: The virtual emergency scenario was anaphylaxis grade III with shock, swelling of the upper and lower respiratory tract, as well as skin symptoms in a 5-year-old girl (virtual patient) visiting an indoor family amusement park with her grandfather (virtual agent). A cross-sectional, one-group pretest and posttest design was used to evaluate the training effectiveness and quality of the training execution. The sample included 18 active emergency physicians. Results: The 18 participants rated the VR simulation training positive in terms of training effectiveness and quality of the training execution. A strong, significant correlation (r=.53, P=.01) between experiencing presence and assessing training effectiveness was observed. Perceived limitations in usability and a relatively high extraneous cognitive load reduced this positive effect. Conclusions: The training within the virtual simulation environment was rated as an effective educational approach. Specific media use factors appear to modulate training effectiveness (ie, improvement through ""experience of presence"" or reduction through perceived limitations in usability). These factors should be specific targets in the further development of this VR simulation training.