New doctors use virtual reality to train for emergencies

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) Doctors at Children's Hospital Los Angeles are using virtual reality to prepare medical students for real-life emergencies. The high-tech training is helping users learn to treat pediatric patients.

Marie LaFortune looks like she's gearing up to play a game, but the CHLA resident is actually doing critical training. The virtual reality simulation is designed to help medical students and doctors deal better with emergencies involving children.

"My palms are sweaty, my heart it racing, so for me it definitely feels very real," LaFortune said.

Researchers say 80-percent of pediatric resucitations are handled by medical personnel who have limited pediatric training.

Dr. Josh Sherman helped create the virtual reality program and says each scenario guides users through the difficult choices they'd face treating a real patient. "It gives you the environment that makes it realistic to invoke that physiological response that we feel in the real world," he said

The program offers training in two common pediatric emergencies, prolonged seizures and extreme allergic reactions. "And each level brings its own level of distraction, stress response and complexity of the scenario," Sherman said.

LaFortune, a fourth year resident, says the training has made her more confident. "You're never going to feel like, 'Yes, I've got this 100-percent because they're very stressful, so having the chance to practice is really nice," she said.

Simulattions that could help save real lives later.

The program's creators say they're developing more virtual reality training scenarios, including training to help first responders like firefighters and EMT's better prepare to face medical emergencies.