You are getting ready for an upcoming surgery. You are in the room, which is white-walled except for one floral painting, a plastic chair, and maybe one machine. You are in your hospital gown, all decked out for the Pre-Op catwalk. It almost smells too clean of a room to be laying in. Your skin feels lightly clammy.

This surgery is making you terribly nervous. You have spent hours, days, weeks thinking about it. Will it work? Will it help? Will it change anything? All these thoughts playing in your mind, and you cannot function. When anyone talks to you, it’s muffled or you forget or don’t understand. You just can’t get it off your mind how freaked out you are.

Then, someone gives you a pair of thick, high-technological goggles. “Try it,” they say. You put them on.

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Suddenly, you are transported to a large open grassy area. The sky is beginning to approach sunset. In front of you is a crackling campfire. Above you, a fluttering butterfly that stands out among the clouds as they drift slowly. You admire the view and turn your head from side to side to get a better view of this not-quite-so-real world and meditate in all of this beauty. Your breathing slows, you even curve a smile on the edge of your lips…

“It’s time,” the nurse notifies you. You forgot about your surgery for a brief moment. You imagine that beautiful place instead. Suddenly, this procedure doesn’t seem as mentally demanding as before.

This is what I like to call: Virtual Coping.

Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming more popular and progressive in the healthcare field as a resource to help patients cope with fear and anxiety. Virtual Reality has already begun to support patients with pain management, especially for burns (Mott et al., 2008), cancer (Li, Chung, & Ho, 2011) therapeutic support (Brütsch et al, 2010), and those with developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy (Mitchell, Ziviani, Oftedal, & Boyd, 2012).

VR is a significant area of study and is important for the Child Life Specialist to begin taking on awareness. As an effective tool for coping and distraction, VR is beneficial for patients who need additional pain management support, relaxation, reduction in anxiety, and provide visual stimulation, especially during procedures or for necessary care that can potentially be overwhelming for the child.

The Association of Child Life Professionals has also recently highlighted VR from a recent conference in Austin, TX to discuss gaming and VR to support children in the healthcare setting. You can see this post here

What is AppliedVR?

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“AppliedVR provides a virtual reality platform to offer patients a highly enjoyable escape from scary and painful experiences in healthcare. (, 2017)”

appliedVR™ has been successful at many large Children’s Hospitals and General Hospitals across the nation. The primary focus of AppliedVR is to provide higher patient satisfaction, pain reduction, and reduction in fear and anxiety during procedures.

appliedVR™ has had success through their research which can be viewed here  which has consisted of several case studies and how it has supported specific areas such as depression, pain management, and others. appliedVR™ has already received recognition through press and media for its significant services and has already been implemented in several hospitals including: Cedar-Sinai, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Boston Children’s Hospital, Tenet Health, Prospect Health, and Inova Health.

Using VR can begin as early as age 3 and can be assigned to patients as appropriate. It is easy to use and the VR simulations can last anywhere from 3 minutes to 30 minutes.

VR is NOT recommended for patients that:

  • require low stimulation
  • Have neurological diagnoses or history of TBI, epliepsy, seizures, etc.
  • Are receiving imaging tests (CT, MRI, etc.)

You can check out their website here to learn more information and receive contact to begin incorporating VR into a child life program and request a demo today!

Image result for Applied VRI believe, as a future Child Life Specialist (CLS), that VR should be considered as a form of therapeutic intervention along with our many other traditional therapeutic styles and techniques. While VR is not intended to replace traditional methods, this is important to consider with patients following assessment for specific procedures as well as the child’s coping style. VR is already becoming adapted for several other diagnoses and treatments and I think it is beneficial for the CLS to be aware of how VR can improve outcomes of patient compliance, pain management, patient and family satisfaction, and successful treatment.

I would like to thank Jeff Hiller from appliedVR™ for his correspondence and sharing information about this wonderful company and organization, as well as the work from  appliedVR™ that has already successfully supported patients and families!


Resources Cited:

Brütsch, K., Schuler, T., Koenig, A., Zimmerli, L., Mérillat, S., Lünenburger, L., … & Meyer-Heim, A. (2010). Influence of virtual reality soccer game on walking performance in robotic assisted gait training for children. Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation, 7(1), 15.

Li, W. H., Chung, J. O., & Ho, E. K. (2011). The effectiveness of therapeutic play, using virtual reality computer games, in promoting the psychological well‐being of children hospitalised with cancer. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20(15‐16), 2135-2143.

Mitchell, L., Ziviani, J., Oftedal, S., & Boyd, R. (2012). The effect of virtual reality interventions on physical activity in children and adolescents with early brain injuries including cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 54(7), 667-671.

Mott, J., Bucolo, S., Cuttle, L., Mill, J., Hilder, M., Miller, K., & Kimble, R. M. (2008). The efficacy of an augmented virtual reality system to alleviate pain in children undergoing burns dressing changes: A randomised controlled trial. Burns, 34(6), 803-808.