For many children, coming to hospital isn’t a happy memory. Very often the procedures or operations that will help them, can also cause real distress, not only for the children themselves, but also for their parents and the medical staff caring for them.
The Foundation is funding the use of virtual realist (VR) technology to support patients as a potential mechanism to reduce pain and anxiety for paediatric medical procedures. The idea being, that when children can be immersed in a “virtual world”, they can be engaged and relaxed and this will reduce anxiety and fear.
Up to 80% of children may experience anxiety when facing procedures such as cannula insertion, blood draws, skin prick testing, burns dressings and anaesthesia.
We know about a 25-35% of children are very anxious or before they have an anaesthetic. We also know that being anxious actually makes you feel more pain and slows recovery post discharge, with some children having ongoing behavioural disturbance like nightmares, bed wetting, temper tantrums or anxiety. There is research that suggests if children have very negative experiences in their childhood, this affects their health in later life, because they avoid things like vaccinations or seeing doctors.
At a basic level this helps distract them by focusing their attention away. When you do that, it reduces anxiety but also reduces the number of signals that your conscious brain interprets as painful or threatening.
Ultimately, I would like to see this rolled out to the entire hospital and available on all the wards. There are so many other areas like oncology and vaccinations that could make such great use of this technology and support so many other children and their parents.
“It distracted me and I felt really relaxed and calm. I felt some needles going into me but it was fine because I just kept on breathing in and breathing out like it taught me to.”
My name is Lucas St. John and I broke my pinky finger at football training. I had to have lots of needles going into me and they said “do you want to try the Smileyscope?”
I think lots of other kids will like it because it’s relaxing and distracts them from what’s happening and it just helps calm people down.
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