Emory special pathogen experts partner with digital scholars to develop immersive training videos

The Emory University medical team that successfully treated Ebola patients is partnering with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) to develop a new kind of training for health care professionals. The goal is to provide a virtual experience of treating critically ill patients in a place like the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit (SCDU) at Emory University Hospital.

The Serious Communicable Diseases Program (SCDP) and ECDS teams plan to create a series of 360-degree videos using an Yi Halo camera, funded by the first-ever Special Pathogens Exploratory and Innovative Research (SPEIR) grant at Emory.

“We’re diversifying and innovating how we train to reach more people,” says Erik Brownsword, the Emory University School of Medicine senior program coordinator who serves as SPEIR project manager for this initiative. The new methods are intended to complement current schedules of periodic, in-person trainings offered in Atlanta and other cities.

SPEIR aims to promote inter-professional healthcare research and scientific validation with clinical translation for the care of patients with special pathogens. The primary purpose of the grant is to improve patient care and health care worker safety while advancing opportunities for the research in this field.

The SPEIR fund is sponsored by Dr. Bruce Ribner, the SCDU medical director who led the Emory team that treated Ebola patients in 2014. He also serves as one of the principal investigators for the National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC), a federally funded consortium comprised of faculty and staff from Emory, the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine, and the New York Health and Hospitals Corporation, Bellevue Hospital Center.

The videos will offer an immersive experience simulating protocol steps such as donning and doffing personal protective equipment and being especially aware of points of contact to avoid cross-contamination. To help acclimate health care workers to all parts of the experience, the videos will also include seemingly ordinary aspects such as walking into the patient room and hearing sounds and alarms, since no aspects of treating patients with special pathogens can be considered routine.

“The teaching and learning opportunities we have with this new equipment can greatly change the level of engagement with critical training information,” says ECDS Co-Director Wayne Morse. “The immersive nature of 360-degree video draws you into what is being seen in a way that allows observations of small, unique elements, each of which are important to successfully mastering the instructional content.”

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