Portiuncula University Hospital has launched a virtual reality app to help children between the ages of 3 and 12 to prepare for surgery and reduce their anxiety ahead of their hospital stay.
The ‘Little Journey’ app provides 360 degree views of all the areas the children will visit at the hospital as well as useful information about anaesthesiology tailored to the age of the child.
The app is free to download from Google Play Store or App Store and can be used on a smartphone in 2D or using a 3D virtual reality headset.
It gives children the chance to meet the animated healthcare characters who will explain what they do and what happens on the day of surgery and see some of the equipment which will be used to care for them.
They can also find out more about what to expect on the day of their procedure and includes a virtual tour of the children’s day ward, the theatre room and the recovery room at the hospital.
Dr Vinod Sudhir, Consultant Anaesthesiologist at Portiuncula University Hospital, said that preoperative anxiety in children and parents is a very real phenomenon before undergoing general anaesthesia.
“As healthcare professionals we recognise the increasing impact of anxiety and the physiological negative impact it can have on the child’s and parent’s ability to cope with events surrounding the experience of anaesthesiology and surgery,” said Dr Sudhir.
“Children may have anxiety around the multidisciplinary environment of theatre, their expectation of events, meeting unfamiliar people and even fear of pain.”
He explained that parents or guardians can accompany their young children to theatre and be present with them during induction of anaesthesia.
“Some of the parent’s anxiety comes from their fear of the unknown and the steps surrounding their role with their child at the time their child undergoes anaesthesia.
“By providing information through the app, which uses child-friendly animation, we can begin to prepare parents/guardians and children for surgery and ease their distress.”
Martina Fallon, mum to Diarmuid, said that the app was very helpful for her son.
“He could visualise his hospital experience through the app and it really helped not only him but me to prepare,” she said.
“He loved the different characters and games and played the games all the way in the car to the hospital. It is also a great information tool for parents; we loved it, it’s a great resource.”