Virtual reality is helping child life specialists reduce patient anxiety and stress

Staying in the hospital, for any amount of time, can be tough on kids and their families. The stress of treatment combined with the longing to go home and see friends and family can take a toll on patients.

Child life specialists at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach are turning to virtual reality (VR) to distract patients of all ages and take their mind off treatment.

VR goggles have proved especially beneficial before and during minor medical procedures and tests. Some of these procedures can cause many patients to have anxiety and minor pain, like injections, changing bandages and intravenous therapy (IVs).

The VR goggles allow patients to explore other worlds and landscapes during these procedures, like a journey to the planet Mars or the elements of nature found in a national park. Patients also can play games that can help with development, education and rehabilitation.

“The VR goggles have been an amazing tool to help calm and distract patients during treatment,” says Alicia Richardson, child life specialist, Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “They really work and kids of all ages love them. Even our older teens like to use them, and many even request them.”

Child life specialists also are using the VR goggles to bring an escape to patients who are longing to leave the hospital.

“Many of our patients spend weeks and some even months in the hospital for treatment,” says Richardson. “This technology offers an escape for them and gets them out of the hospital room or playroom. Even if they are just playing a game with the goggles, it improves their spirit and it can be a lot of fun.”

The VR goggles were donated to the Child Life Program by the Starlight Children’s Foundation as part of their virtual reality program that provides more than 800 children’s hospitals and other pediatric facilities with virtual reality goggles that are preloaded with age appropriate, dynamic content perfect for entertainment and distraction for hospitalized kids.

“My team is always looking to improve the hospital experience for our patients and we try our best to normalize their stay,” says Rita Goshert, manager, Child Life Program, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “Thanks to the generosity of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, VR goggles are helping us distract patients from an intimidating and often scary environment and taking them to a more calming and relaxing place.”

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