St. Joseph Health recently purchased more than a dozen
appliedVR® virtual reality (VR) goggles to help reduce anxiety and relieve pain
for pediatric and obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) patients both at the
hospital and in the doctor’s office. Clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai
and CHLA have shown the VR goggles reduce self-reported pain by 24%; a
CHLA clinical trial also showed anxiety was reduced by 31%.
The wireless virtual reality headsets are powered by a smart phone preloaded
with a variety of 360 degree, virtual reality experiences that patients
can choose from to distract, manage pain or ease anxiety (watch video of sample VR experiences).
At St. Joseph Health, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH), VR is providing
a welcome distraction for pediatric patients. Whether they’re playing
a video game or watching farm animals grazing, kids enter another world
while care providers insert IVs or change dressings.
That was the case for six-year-old Angel Fernandez of Clear Lake, who was
admitted to SRMH on July 8 for cellulitis in his left foot. His treatment
plan included antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and required the placement
of an IV. To help reduce his anxiety during the IV placement, his care
team asked Angel is he’d like to try on virtual reality goggles
so he could swim with dolphins while they inserted the IV. Not surprisingly,
Angel was game.
“[The virtual reality goggles] helped Angel relax,” said his
mother, Alejandra. “They’re great because they create a distraction.
Angel wasn’t scared or worried and a part of the reason why is because
he was so happy searching for the dolphins! It also helped that the caregivers
explained what they were going to do step-by-step.”
In the family birth center down the hall, VR brings calming scenes and
sounds to the delivery room, providing mothers in early and late stages
of labor with a less invasive alternative to medication.
In the midst of the current opioid epidemic, many experts see VR as one
way to reduce non-essential pharmacological exposure. According to Ricci
Ros, Director of Women and Children’s Services at SRMH, it is estimated
that more than 1,000 inpatients and outpatients at St. Joseph Health will
use VR as an alternative to pharmacologicals to manage pain and anxiety
within the year.
“At St. Joseph Health, we are committed to providing our mothers
and children with a holistic and personalized experience that meets their
unique needs and goals,” said Ros. “We are excited to offer
VR to children and mothers who want a natural pain relief/anxiety management
At St. Joseph Health Medical Group’s Santa Rosa-based OB/GYN office,
doctors are offering VR to patients to relieve stress and anxiety during
outpatient gynecological procedures, such as biopsies or colposcopies
used to check for cervical cancer.
“It’s about giving our patients options,” said
Gregory Sacher, M.D., OB/GYN with St. Joseph Health Medical Group. “For some women,
having an IUD inserted, an endometrial biopsy, a routine pap smear, or
other procedures can
cause a sense of unease and apprehension. The sights and sounds provided
by the virtual reality goggles can give these patients an opportunity
to be transported to a calming, more pleasant space.”
According to appliedVR, studies have been conducted at a variety of medical
centers, including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Mayo Clinic,
and George Washington University among others. In addition to decreased
pain and anxiety without medication (and therefore reduced drug-related
side effects), benefits have also included an enhanced treatment experience,
a reduced perception of procedure/wait times, and shorter recovery times.
St. Joseph Health, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital
St. Joseph Health, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SJH-SRMH) is a nonprofit,
full-service, 338-bed health care facility founded by the Sisters of St.
Joseph of Orange. Services include: cancer, cardiac, critical care, emergency/a
level II trauma center, maternity and infant care; neurosciences; orthopaedics;
pediatrics, and the UCSF neonatal intensive care nursery, and more. The
hospital works collaboratively with other hospitals within Providence
St. Joseph Health, as well as numerous outpatient facilities, affiliated
physicians, home and community care, and St. Joseph Health Medical Group
providers, to ensure patients receive the highest level of care, close
to home. For more information, visit
About St. Joseph Health Medical Group
St. Joseph Health Medical Group (SJHMG) is committed to improving local
access to care in Sonoma, Napa, Humboldt, and surrounding communities.
Our team of like-minded providers offers high quality, patient-centered
care as well as a more satisfying experience for patients and families
with a focus on maintaining continuity of care throughout the group. With
over 340 providers and growing, SJHMG’s tradition of excellence
extends to all aspects of care—from routine check-ups to leading-edge
surgical procedures. SJHMG operates more than 75 offices and clinics throughout
the northern California region. For more information, visit