Revolutionary is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. The series focuses on VA employees who are disrupting the status-quo, breaking down barriers, and attempting to radically revolutionize Veteran care and employee experience.
Barry Peterson has always found a great sense of fulfillment when given the opportunity to contribute to the joy of those around him. 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 could offer Veterans and staff.
Peterson and his team have since participated in several VHA Innovators Network Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment competition cycles to boost Veteran and provider morale using VR technology in innovative ways new to VA.
Through his journey with iNET, Peterson has continually expanded the scope of his innovative work. In 2020, he explored a role for VR in employee education, with the understanding that better education results in better healthcare outcomes for Veterans.
By 2021, his team expanded VR projects to Veteran pain management, emphasizing proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), empathy, and soft skills training. This year, he is building upon the existing work in role-play conversation and soft skills.
Throughout Peterson’s journey, his mission has remained the same: “When staff feel empowered, they provide better care for Veterans.”
Transforming care as a team
Peterson often found himself running into the same challenge, taking ownership and leading a project that wasn’t exclusively his. Since “there’s a culture of innovation from the top down in Reno,” everyone was involved – from the practitioners to the Veterans themselves. Everyone was just as much a part of the innovation journey as he was.
Like any good educator, Peterson knew from the outset that learning would not be limited to only his target audience. He would also be building on his existing understanding of VR and absorbing the expertise of those around him.
Create your path
It is nearly impossible to know where innovation can take you. While it can be scary, it can also lead to wonderful results. Using VR for pain distraction, Veterans can choose the experience aligned with their interests and often finish their sessions saying, “I can’t believe I felt like I was somewhere else.”
Peterson and his team took this feedback from the pain distraction application of VR to boosting morale for Veterans, and creating a sense of connection between patient and provider.
When he feels frustrated and finds himself thinking of the future, he focuses on how he can innovate in the present, what excites him, and asks himself, “Am I doing my very best today?”
When Peterson joined the Army, he couldn’t have imagined he would be creating innovative VR solutions for Veterans and VA practitioners. However, with patience, passion and the willingness to remain flexible, he has impacted the lives of both Veterans and his fellow employees.
Just as there is an innovator in Peterson and his team, there is an innovator in you. Thinking about what minor creative changes you can make in your life today can quickly lead to increased adaptability that will build your ideal future.
Want to support VA IE’s innovation revolution? Visit our website to learn about opportunities to become involved in innovation at VA.