All it took was completing an overdose simulation in Ohio University’s GRID lab. By wearing oculus lenses which display 360-video, I felt all the emotions of anxiety and fear as simulated students searched frantically for Narcan to revive their friend.
The immersive virtual reality video was created by professionals in OU’s College of Health Sciences and Professions in tandem with faculty and students in the Scripps College of Communication.
Users put on oculus lenses and are immediately thrown into a situation that assistant professor of nursing Sherleena Buchman said is unfortunately all too familiar: a person (in this case, a student) is seen slumped over a chair with a needle in their arm.
In the simulation, two of the student’s friends enter the dorm room and begin panicking. They search the room for any sort of anecdote and calling 9-1-1. The students hesitate at first to call the police, worried about getting in trouble, but the operator ends up giving detailed instructions on how to administer a life-saving drug: narcan.
Narcan is a nasal spray used in to treat emergency cases of opioid overdose.
The video was shot on an Insta360 Pro, allowing users to move their body and physically change their point of view in the room. The audio in the headset also shifts when the viewer moves to take in various parts of the scene: the students tear their friend’s room apart and bystanders watching from behind their phone screens.
“It’s one of those things you can watch multiple times because there’s so much happening at once in all directions,” said Jacob Hagman, a faculty member in the nursing school who also played the overdosed student in the pilot. “There’s so many high intensity moments since it’s so immersive.”
The goal, Buchman said, is to give non-health professionals instruction on how to save a life. In the past few years working in an emergency room, she said she has seen a significant increase of people bringing in overdosed friends or family members.
“It’s so easy, and I want to stress how easy it is for anyone to do,” she said. “If those people knew how to do this, maybe that person would’ve had another chance at life.”
The simulation ends with a detailed, close-up video on a nurse’s hands preparing and administering the life-saving drug.
There was no cost associated with the project, said media professor Eric Williams, because the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab had access to all the resources — the 360 degree camera and editing software — accessible from a previous grant.
Under William’s tutelage, around six students were involved over the summer as editors and producers.
The pilot project is currently being re-shot with new actors and is slated to be completed in December. Faculty plan to make 16 mobile viewing stations available in various places across the community, such as the Athens City-County Health Department.
Eventually, Buchman said they plan to upload the video to YouTube and make it accessible for people across the country to use with their own VR viewing lenses.
“Anybody can administer narcan, you don’t have to be a nurse or a medical professional,” Buchman said. “Prevention and great and we want to get there, but the end ultimately is to save a life.”
Originally published on A1 of The Athens Messenger on Nov. 23, 2018.