A hospital trust is using virtual reality in its safeguarding training to help staff spot and better understand the experiences of children in abusive homes.
Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford has started using the immersive tech to aid learning in the workplace.
Staff can use the headsets to train for a range of "real" family scenarios and spot risks and dangers such as alcohol and domestic abuse.
It is believed when the workforce is armed with the knowledge and experience to recognise these situations, the right referrals to social care can be made, at the right time.
Training can also lead to a deeper understanding of why a child may be behaving in a certain way.
Use of the technology is being overseen by the safeguarding children's team and has been developed by company Antser VR.
Sonya Stocker, senior sister for safeguarding, came across the innovative VR technology at an NSPCC conference.
"I could quickly see how powerful the VR was and how the immersive experience would help staff understand and recognise certain situations with more empathy," she said.
The safeguarding team is responsible for the training and development of more than 3,000 staff.
It has recently adopted the ‘Think Family’ training approach, a model which recognises how mental health issues can affect family life and have an adverse effect on children and young people.
The new VR training is being used at the beginning of the training and offers a stark reminder of the experiences of abused children in both home and care settings.
Antser has worked closely with the hospital training ten of its staff members, including midwives to deliver the programme.
To measure the success of the programme, which started in October 2020, the safeguarding team will be looking at the level of referrals over the next few months and asking staff for their views.
There are also other potential opportunities where VR could be used, including a stop smoking initiative and working with other health partners to provide trauma informed training.
A spokesman for Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, Sue Daniels, said: “Delivering children’s safeguarding training to our staff has been revolutionised by the addition of virtual reality.
"Using VR takes our training to the next level and gives us the ability to transport users to realistic, risk-reduced scenarios.
"Staff can learn the safeguarding skills and procedures whilst also being actively engaged in the learning process. Feedback from staff using this method of training has been extremely positive.”