Virtual Reality at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada


Global Heroes 002 - September 2020 - Shriners_Shriners Logo

© Courtesy of Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada

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Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive technology that brings children into a 3D imaginary world that looks and feels real. Children put on a VR headset, known as a head-mounted display, and use controllers to interact with the imaginary world. This technology has been used as a distraction tool to help children cope with pain and anxiety during medical procedures.

Reggie Hamdy, M.D., and Argerie Tsimicalis, RN, Ph.D., at Shriners Children’s Canada, have conducted studies on the use of VR with patients since 2019. The main goal was to gather evidence on whether VR could be seamlessly introduced into clinical practice to help children manage procedural pain and anxiety.

With patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada in Montréal, children play an interactive and immersive game, DREAM, during a medical procedure where they need to catch the balloons and diamonds stolen by purple trolls. This form of distraction is used for example, during the removal of orthopedic pins in the cast room or IVs in the treatment room.

“Having surgery, resetting a broken bone or starting an IV can be scary and painful for children. Virtual reality has been found to help children in these situations, using distraction to reduce pain and alleviate their fears. During these stressful situations, the patients, through the use of VR, enter a calm, imaginary world,” said Bryan Tompkins, M.D., one of the pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Shriners Children’s Spokane.

Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada is currently training healthcare professionals as VR Champions, so they may have their own VR headset and use it with their patients. Our first VR Champion is Angie Gugliotti, a child life specialist who already helps children cope with pain and anxiety using various non-pharmacological tools and now can offer VR distraction to patients. “Since virtual reality is an electronic game it also appeals to today’s generation of children and teenagers as they spend much time immersed in the digital world. Virtual reality is an additional tool in our toolbox,” said Angie.

Improving our young patients’ experiences through therapeutic intervention and new technology such as virtual reality can help to change the perception of a hospital and anxiety-provoking experiences. VR therapy has the potential to revolutionize the standard of care, as ultimately the hope is that non-pharmaceutical pain management alternatives will reduce reliance on painkillers.

Learn more about how Shriners Children’s is improving the lives of children at

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For more than 90 years Shriners Hospitals for Children — Canada’s board-certified surgeons and staff have been providing high-quality orthopedic care. Every member of our team, from surgeons and therapists, to nurses and prosthetists, work together to ensure the best course of treatment for each patient in a family-centred environment.


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