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A trio of Hillman Scholars and their research partners lead a pilot study of a groundbreaking virtual reality program that can eventually make Narcan training accessible to the masses.

Penn Nursing Hillman Scholars Clare Whitney ‘20, Nicholas Giordano ‘18, and Sydney Axson ‘23 worked with digital design specialist Kyle Cassidy, director of Penn Nursing’s Helene Fuld Pavilion Ann Marie Hoyt-Brennan, and Annenberg doctoral candidate Natalie Herbert, to create a 7-minute virtual reality Narcan simulation tool that was used for the first time this year in a senior-level nursing course. Students who participated in this virtual trainingperformed and retained information just as well as the students who were trained in person.  A summary of the findings can be found in Penn News Today.

This innovative action taken in the classroom brings together the research goals of the three Hillman Scholars involved: Whitney focuses on the ethical and moral considerations of nurses who care for postpartum women with substance use disorders, Giordano studies PTSD and pain after exposure to early pain management interventions, and Axson is concerned with opioid prescribing in adolescents with a public health and ethics focus.

Project leader Clare Whitney was recently interviewed on NBC10 Philadelphia in a story that highlighted the opportunity to use this technology outside the School of Nursing. “Virtual reality is a great tool because it is low-cost, high efficacy, and works just as well as the gold standard of medical training,” she stated.

Given the rise in opioid overdoses in recent years, this research is essential in order to quickly equip both health practitioners and the general public so they can work together to save lives.

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