By, Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
I subscribe to what seems like a million blogs, newsletters and Google alerts focused on a variety of topics pertaining to my work as a birth professional. A recent article found its way in front of my eyes and immediately interested me for its potential application to both birth and postpartum doulas and their training.
The article, “Virtual reality taking the dummies out of medical simulation” was released by the AMA Wire, an electronic publication of the American Medical Association. The purpose of the article was to share how the technology advancements of virtual reality are helping to create more realistic and effective learning and simulation experiences for medical professionals and care providers. This training simulator gives medical trainees customizable experiences with virtual patients of all sizes, ages, and colors.
One of my many jobs in the birth world, in addition to blog manager for the DONA Doula Chronicles, is teaching birth doula skills workshops at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University, near my home in Seattle, WA, USA. I meet and train many new birth doulas and hear their fears, concerns, and apprehensions as they explore and begin to work as a doula. Will they know what to say, how to offer comfort, be a good listener – all under a variety of circumstances with their clients?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a series of virtual reality simulation experiences that help birth doulas learn how to coach a laboring person through a painful contraction? How about a VR experience where the postpartum doula attempts to soothe a fussy baby? Assists a birthing person through some effective pushing contractions or painful back labor? Tries a paced feeding session with a virtual infant? Offers support to a partner desperately trying to help their loved one? Interacts with healthcare providers? I can think of many situations that could be created that would be responsive to the new doula’s words and physical actions as they go through the scenarios that would be likely found when working as a birth or postpartum doula.
No one loves a good role play more than I do, as my students will attest. But the opportunity to “play along” as the situation unfolds with a responsive virtual reality “dummy” as the doula practices newly learned skills could provide a great learning opportunity in a safe environment. Some doulas feel comfortable jumping right in and serving clients directly out of training and others are more cautious about taking that leap. This virtual reality option could be a great next step for those who want it.
Take a look at this fascinating video of a virtual reality simulation in action. While this scenario is a medical situation, couldn’t you see the same technology applied to our work? What scenarios might trainers or new doulas benefit from using this virtual reality technology to increase skills and confidence? Let me know in the comments section below how you could see this applied to developing doula skills.