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The Annenberg School for Communication's VR Collaborative and Penn Nursing released a virtual reality training for administering Narcan.

The School of Nursing and Annenberg School for Communication partnered with Camden County to create a virtual reality training video on Narcan administration. 

Camden County saw 1,312 administrations of naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, in the first 10 months of 2023, according to the county’s announcement of the partnership. The virtual reality video, which emerged from a collaboration between the Nursing School and Annenberg Virtual Reality ColLABorative, aims to educate the public on using Narcan through an accessible, immersive training experience. 

In 2022, Camden County recorded 354 fatalities attributed to overdose. New Jersey introduced an initiative allowing individuals aged 14 and older to anonymously obtain Narcan for free at over 600 participating pharmacies throughout the state. Camden County has also placed NaloxBoxes in public spaces such as schools, motels, and libraries, Director of the Camden County Office of Mental Health and Addiction John Pellicane told Penn Today. 

The Camden County Office of the Prosecutor collaborated with Penn to create a virtual reality training that educates viewers on Narcan administration in accessible terms. In the scripted video, after an individual faints in a kitchen, other hired actors demonstrate how to identify a potential overdose, administer the medication, time a second dose, and interact with first responders.

“The Narcan VR Training Video is a tremendous opportunity for Camden County to reach and train thousands of people on safely administering Narcan,”  Camden County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay said in the county announcement. “This nine-minute video succinctly breaks down the barrier of fear by reassuring people on the warning signs of overdose, how easy Narcan is to use, and if it’s discovered that it was not an overdose situation and Narcan was not needed — there is no harm to the individual.”

Kyle Cassidy, a digital design specialist at Annenberg, worked to develop the virtual reality training alongside Ann Marie Hoyt Brennan, director of the Nursing School’s Helene Fuld Pavilion for Innovative Learning and Simulation. Their pilot study found that the virtual reality experience was as effective as traditional in-person training methods, making it a viable option for reaching a broader audience.

Cassidy said that the county’s training program draws on the novelty of virtual reality technology to advance public health. 

“In the future, fewer people will want to go to YouTube to look at Narcan training videos, but right now, you can say to a room full of schoolkids, ‘Hey, does anyone want to check out VR and watch this video?’ And they will,” Cassidy told WHYY.

The video is available online and can be viewed by placing a mobile device in a virtual reality viewer such as Google Cardboard.

“Rarely do we get to see such an immediate lifesaving benefit to our research,” Annenberg School Dean Sarah Banet-Weiser told Penn Today. “We are all so thrilled and proud that Kyle’s innovative use of virtual reality can be used to efficiently and effectively train anyone to revive people who are overdosing.”