CDC Awards $870K Grant for Virtual Home Health Training

An $870,000 grant awarded by a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be used to develop a virtual simulation program to train home health workers.  

The three-year grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a part of the CDC, will help researchers from the University of Louisville’s School of Nursing and Ohio State University develop and test a virtual simulation training system to help home health workers recognize, assess and respond to risks. 

The need for such a training program arises as 60% of all injuries experienced by home health aides occur inside patient homes, said Barbara Polivka, PhD, RN, who is working on the project. 

“Our goal is to equip health professionals with the skills to evaluate the homes in which they work for hazards to their own health and safety, and to recognize when and how they need to adapt their tasks or their surroundings to protect themselves,” Polivka said. 

During the first two years of the project, researchers will conduct focus groups and interview stakeholder groups including nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, home health care aides, among others. 

The virtual simulation design will require trainees to actively participate in the created scenarios of the program, and interact with non-playing characters such as pets and family members that will have scripted actions and responses. 

The program will represent various rooms in homes or apartments with a range of hazards and distractions, requiring home health trainees to make an assessment of the risks and then choose how to respond. 

Researchers will use the final year of the project to test and evaluate the simulator program, according to a release from the University of Louisville. 

“If we can minimize injuries on the job, we can minimize costs for home health workers and for their employers who must account for things like work sick leave and workers’ compensation,” Polivka said.

Written by Jason Oliva