29 March 2023

Using virtual reality in hospital

Your child is feeling poorly. The use of virtual reality brings a welcome distraction, not just for the child, but also for the parent or carer. In Southampton, we’ve been using charity-funded virtual reality headsets to distract patients in Southampton Children’s Hospital. Play specialist, Kelly Williams, explains:

“I work in the children’s emergency and trauma department, and our virtual reality headset is in use constantly with our children and young adults!

When we are busy, it can help provide a distraction while patients are waiting; it can block out the visuals and sounds that come with a busy emergency department; and it helps to engage with patients while they are waiting for procedures.

Most importantly, I use it all the time to compliment the nursing care for when patients need stitches, blood tests, and sedation ready for bone manipulation.

Photo of virtual reality equipment

The use of virtual reality helps to relax them, and we have such a choice of experiences. They can play games, watch short movies, and even experience different themes, such as underwater, rainforests, and there is even a hypnotherapy setting too!”

Mum, Amanda, said: “My son Leo was given a VR headset to play with whilst waiting to see the doctor. They are an absolutely brilliant idea as it kept him both amused and distracted.

He suffers with anxiety, so this really helped take the stress away. It is such a good idea, especially for young children that don’t have much patience!”

Patient with virtual reality headset on

Kelly continues, “We’ve only had positive feedback from parents. The devices are great way to distract the whole family, and we’ve seen parents engaging with the virtual reality too, sharing the experience and laughing with the children. This really helps reduce the anxiety of being in hospital.

People don’t expect us to have something so modern, it really gives the element of surprise to our hospital!

In the emergency department, we could easily have two or three going at the same time! Currently a second device is in use on the G level floors, and three more have been ordered by the Charity.”

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