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NHS Trust pioneers use of Virtual Reality for safeguarding training

An NHS Trust Hospital in Dartford, Darent Valley Hospital, is pioneering the use of Virtual Reality for their Safeguarding Training.

Overseen by the Safeguarding Children’s Team, Antser VR is being used as a training and development resource for the hospital workforce.

Sonya Stocker, Senior Sister for Safeguarding, came across the innovative VR technology at a NSPCC conference and quickly saw the potential of how the immersive programme could be utilised in Darent Valley Hospital within their safeguarding training programme.

Antser VR offers accelerated learning and understanding of the experiences of children in abusive homes and the needs of those children in or from the care system, immersing the VR user into ‘real’ scenarios. It offers the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the child/young person.

Sonya commented: “I could quickly see how powerful the VR was and how the immersive experience would help staff understand and recognise certain situations with more empathy.”

The safeguarding team is responsible for the training and development of over 3,000 staff, and have recently developed the ‘Think Family’ training approach. The model approach recognises how mental health issues can affect family life and have an adverse effect on children and young people. 

The VR training programme fits well within the aims and objective of the Think Family model and complements the training for workforce. It is used at the beginning of the training and is a stark reminder of the experiences of abused children; setting the tone for the importance of the day’s training.

Thinking of the bigger picture, in A&E, and many other clinical settings, the workforce from Darent Valley Hospital can witness a range and number of family scenarios including alcohol and domestic abuse – all of which would have an impact on a child. When the workforce is armed with the knowledge and experience to recognise these situations, the right referrals to social care can be made, at the right time. Add to this empathy, and there is an even deeper understanding of why a family member or child may be acting in a certain way.

Darent Valley Hospital has always taken a creative approach to their training and this latest VR technology will be an asset to its development programme. Antser has worked closely with the hospital training ten of its staff members, including midwives, to deliver the VR programme. These 10 staff members are now able to deliver the VR training programme throughout the organisation. This will be mainly aimed at all clinical staff who attend Safeguarding Level 3 training which includes A&E, paediatrics and maternity.

To measure the success of the VR programme, which commenced in October 2020, the Safeguarding Team will be looking at the level of referrals over the next few months and staff evaluations of the sessions. There are also other potential opportunities where VR could be used, including a stop smoking initiative and working with other health partners to provide trauma informed training.

Alison Alexander, Strategic Director at Antser, said: “We’re really excited to be working with the Trust and welcome its innovative approach in how to assist their workforce to learn about the impact of trauma. Since working with Sonya, other NHS trusts have asked us to utilise the VR behaviour change programme to enhance their learning and development offer with health practitioners, which is great news for the health sector.”

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