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news item News Friday, March 1, 2019 Friday, March 1, 2019 3:25 PM - Friday, March 1, 2019 3:25 PM

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie using virtual reality to alleviate stress and anxiety during medical procedures

As patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie are undergoing medical procedures, they can now enjoy swimming underwater with dolphins, shooting balls at targets or petting a goat at a farm sanctuary. This distraction is possible because of virtual reality (VR) technology, which the Erie Shriners Medical Center staff has implemented as a distraction tool for patients during medical procedures.

“Pediatric patients can experience high stress in medical settings,” said Kristin Maguire, child life specialist at the Erie Shriners Medical Center. “They have limited experience with medical interventions and can be fearful of pain or discomfort.” The VR technology immerses the patient into their chosen experience and reduces their awareness of what is happening around them. “Patients seem to tolerate pain sensations better, and anxiety is greatly reduced,” said Maguire.

As a child life specialist, a large part of Maguire’s job is relieving anxiety and reducing stress in patients. She uses many tools to help distract the pediatric patients during procedures, but says that nothing compares to the VR technology. “With the highly immersive content available, the patient has significantly reduced awareness of reality.”

The staff at the Erie Shriners Medical Center has been using the technology for a few months, and patients have remained calm and distracted during procedures that may otherwise be stressful. For the patients, it is a fun experience that ensures their visit is positive.