SASKATOON -- In an effort to reach more prospective candidates, the Saskatchewan College of Paramedics (SCoP) announced a partnership with Luxsonic Technologies to use virtual reality technology to assess the skills of paramedics abroad looking to Saskatchewan for employment.

“One of our imminent challenges is that we have a higher vacancy rate than we have available paramedics in this province,” said Jacquie Messer-Lepage, executive director of SCoP. “Especially in rural and remote communities, the issue of recruitment and retention is challenging for them.”

This month SCoP received $800,000 in funding from Employment and Social Development Canada for a project that uses virtual reality to assess skills of internationally educated applicants seeking to come to Saskatchewan. The VR technology allows SCoP to run applicants through virtual scenarios, testing their competency and skills from afar, rather than in-person.

“They might be coming across a patient in a parking lot and they go over and they have to do a sternum rub,” Messer-Lepage said. “At certain points in the scenario they may be asked certain questions as well, ‘what do you believe your prelim diagnosis is, how do you proceed from here?’”

With the additional support of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training, the overarching objective of the Virtual Assessment for Paramedic Occupational Competency (VAPOC) project is to develop web-based immersive technology tools.

Luxsonic Technologies Inc., in Saskatoon was awarded the contract and will now work with SCoP to develop the virtual reality scenarios over the next 30 months before the virtual recruitment tool is launched.

“We’re very excited to be working with SCoP on this innovative project. Remote assessment of hands-on clinical skills is a very challenging problem, one that isn’t easily solved using traditional technology,” said Mike Wesolowski, CEO of Luxsonic Technologies in a news release. “VAPOC will be the first of its kind VR-based occupational competency assessment and we look forward to seeing it used by paramedic regulators across Canada.”

Thus far an intubation scenario is nearing completion, and Messer-Lepage hopes to have a wide variety of scenarios ready in 30 months to test and recruit paramedics to Saskatchewan.