Virtual reality helping kids relax

Virtual reality (VR) can transport us to the Great Wall of China, allow us to walk with dinosaurs, or even go to space. At the RCH, VR is being used to help patients feel more relaxed and less scared of needles ahead of surgeries and procedures.

Thanks to generous support from Viva RCH Auxiliary, the RCH is home to two Smileyscope devices – VR headsets that will be used throughout the hospital to relax children ahead of surgery or during procedures requiring needles.

Laura Oliver, a nurse in the Pre-Admission Resource Centre (PARC) explained that while a lot of other VR systems can only be used to play games, the Smileyscope has been purposefully designed for use in a medical setting by a clinician.

“Smileyscope is a VR device that was developed by physicians in a rigorous evidence-based process. Using a VR experience, the device helps explain and reframe the needle experience for the child,” said Laura.

“For example, if we’re inserting a needle into a child’s arm for a procedure, the Smileyscope device is taking the child on an underwater adventure where the prick of the needle is actually the nibble of a fish.”

For Laura, the device not only helps to relax and distract patients in that moment, it will also improve their overall experience.

“Children who come into PARC are often very anxious and stressed. We also have a lot of children coming in with a behavioural diagnosis, like autism, obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress, or children who need to come in for multiple procedures. In those scenarios, it is really important for us to build a rapport with the child so they trust us and in turn, relax,” said Laura.

“The Smileyscope does exactly that – it gives them something else to focus on, it reduces their stress, and it helps us as nurses to build their trust so we can do all the things we need to before their surgery.”

“Thanks to the device, we’re finding that children are feeling less scared by needles and having a more positive experience. Because of that, we can get them into surgery faster and if they do need to come back for more procedures, we know they will be feeling more relaxed from the get go.”

“I am in awe of the work the Auxiliaries do and I can’t thank them enough for funding the Smileyscope equipment. When we first got the Smileyscope to trial, I thought there was no way we would be able to afford to have one in our department permanently. For the Auxiliaries to see the value in the Smileyscope and invest in such a state-of -the-art device, is just brilliant. It truly will have an incredible impact on the care we can offer our patients.”

Learn more about the RCH Auxiliaries