Better Experiences Through Augmented Reality: BEAR Program

Helping Reduce Anxiety and Pain through Virtual Distraction

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is using virtual reality headsets and immersive technology to reduce children’s pre-procedural anxiety in clinical settings.

Artful distraction is an important part of anxiety and pain management for children in medical environments. Virtual reality – with its immersive qualities – has proven to be an important tool in helping reduce children’s anxiety and perceptions of pain.

Nicklaus Children’s is pleased to offer virtual reality games, relaxation tools and educational resources to children in a variety of settings where they experience anxiety and pain, including pre-operative and post-operative settings.

The Immersive Experience

Virtual reality and immersive technologies are currently being offered in several hospital areas. In the Minor Procedures Suite and Same Day Procedures unit, families of children scheduled to undergo surgical procedures will be offered the opportunity to use virtual reality headsets while waiting in the preoperative area. Virtual reality tools and software have been carefully selected for use by children of varying ages and abilities. Offerings include games featuring animated sledding penguins, flying space puppies, soothing undersea-themed programming, and much more.

Children will be able to continue to engage with the technology while being wheeled into the operating room, up until it’s time for the surgical team to administer anesthesia. Once the child’s procedure is over and he or she awakens in the post-operative care setting, he or she is offered the opportunity to continue using the technology, with the goal of reducing post-operative pain.

In other areas of the hospital, we offer fully immersive patient procedure rooms. During outpatient procedures, the immersive room experience will capture the attention of children of all ages through state-of-the-art audiovisual technologies. Patients will be distracted and put at ease by engaging scenes of their own choosing (e.g., underwater, jungle, or space themes).

Assessing the Impact of VR Distraction

Nicklaus Children’s is seeking to evaluate the impact of the VR technology on children’s anxiety and post-operative pain. Those accepting the use of the equipment will be offered the opportunity to get involved in the research portion of this work. If interested, they will sign a consent form and participate in several short assessments of anxiety and pain during the care experience. If you’d like to know more about the VR Program research, please contact Dr. Christina Potter at

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