By Mark Ackerman

DENVER (CBS4) – Nothing prepares you better than on the job training is a saying you hear in virtually every line of work.

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Now some Denver nursing students are getting the next best thing: hands on experience through virtual reality.

Jennifer Carreon is working on her nursing degree at the Denver Public School’s Emily Griffith Technical College.

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Carreon learns the physical skills she needs, like cleaning a wound or changing a bandage on more than a dozen mannequins.

But the mannequins don’t help much when it comes to developing a bedside manner.

“I’m not going to get feedback from this dummy,” she said.

Jennifer Carreon (credit: CBS)

For that, she straps on virtual reality goggles and interacts with life-like patients.

In one scenario, she knocks on the door and introduces herself to a fictitious patient dressed in a hospital gown.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Jill Jacobson,” says the virtual patient. Jennifer communicates with “Jill” using a drop down menu and they discuss treatment options.

“I ask the patient if they have any more questions,” she said before prodding “Jill” to take her pills.

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The video was filmed onsite at Emily Griffith by the technology company STRIVR, who originally developed the immersive technology to train football players in college and in the NFL.

It is the same system that Broncos quarterback Case Keenum used to read defenses last year while playing with the Vikings. It’s unclear if Keenum will use VR technology to help him learn the Broncos offense.

Case Keenum (credit: CBS)

“We believe Keenum will benefit from having STRIVR there as it helped him learn the Minnesota offense quickly and have a great season,” said Danny Belch of STRIVR.

The company is also providing similar technology to the world’s largest retailer, Walmart.

Tucked away in the back of a Walmart store in Aurora, assistant managers from around the region use virtual reality headsets at a Walmart Academy class.

Wage Ager (credit: CBS)

Trainer Wade Ager teaches the assistant managers how to keep closer tabs on the produce section.

A volunteer dons virtual reality goggles, while her classmates follow along on large screen monitors.

They notice a well-stocked banana table, but also a lack of vegetables and missing plastic bags for customers to use.

“What else do we see?” Ager asks the class and then answers himself. “Customers, but no associates to answer questions.”

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The Walmart employees go into virtual reality to learn how to manage crowds on Black Friday.

“That day is so busy for us,” Ager said. We never slow down so being able to see it in this environment. We are slowing down and looking at the details.”

Whether at Walmart or nursing school the trainees are immersed.

Carreon says in virtual reality she feels a “bit taller,” but actually feels like she’s in a hospital. She can also experience difficult situations under the headset before she has to in real life.

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Things take a turn with her virtual patient “Jill,” who becomes apprehensive.

“Wait what? Am I getting a needle?” asked “Jill.”

“I get to experience the good patients, but also those sassy patients that aren’t really feeling well,” Carreon said.

Emily Griffith program manager Rebecca Dethman said those interpersonal skills will go a long way.

“Having that experience when people aren’t that nice gives you great experience dealing with people,” she said. “That patient interaction will help them do better out in the field.”


Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark


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