Innovation Revolutionary: Using virtual reality to empower employees

Revolutionary is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. The series is dedicated to VA employees who violate the status quo, break down barriers and try to radically change the care of veterans and the experience of employees.

Barry Peterson

Barry Peterson always felt a great sense of fulfillment when he was given the opportunity to contribute to the joy of others. Just a few years after he was hired by the Sierra Nevada VA as an educator in 2016, Peterson was drawn to virtual reality (VR) technology and what it has to offer veterans and staff.

Since then, Peterson and his team have competed in several cycles of VHA Innovators Network Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment to boost the morale of veterans and vendors using VR technology in innovative ways new to the VA.

Traveling with iNET, Peterson has continually expanded the scope of his innovative work. In 2020, he explored the role of virtual reality in staff education, realizing that better education leads to better health outcomes for veterans.

By 2021, his team has expanded VR projects to a veteran of pain control, focusing on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), empathy and soft skills training. This year he draws on existing work in role-playing and soft skills.

Throughout Peterson’s path, his mission remained the same: “When employees feel empowered, they provide better care for veterans.”

Transforming care as a team

Peterson often faced the same problem when taking ownership and managing a project that was not exclusively his. Because “Reno has a culture of top-down innovation,” everyone from practitioners to veterans themselves was involved. Everyone was as much a participant in the innovation path as he was.

Like any good educator, Peterson knew from the beginning that learning would not be limited to his target audience. It will also build on its existing understanding of VR and absorb the experience of those around it.

Create your way

It is almost impossible to know where innovation can take you. While it can be scary, it can also lead to great results. Using VR to distract pain, veterans can choose an experience that suits their interests, and often end their classes by saying, “I can’t believe I felt elsewhere.”

Peterson and his team took these reviews from a VR application that distracts pain to boost veterans ’morale and create a sense of connection between the patient and the provider.

When he is frustrated and thinking about the future, he focuses on how he can innovate in the present that worries him, and asks himself, “Am I doing my best today?”

When Peterson enlisted in the Army, he could not have imagined that he would create innovative VR solutions for VA veterans and practitioners. However, with patience, passion and a willingness to remain flexible, he has impacted the lives of both veterans and his colleagues.

As Peterson and his team have an innovator, so you have an innovator. Reflecting on what minor creative changes you can make to your life today can quickly lead to increased adaptability, which will build your ideal future.

Want to support the VA IE innovation revolution? Visit our website to learn about opportunities to participate in VA innovation.

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