Thanks to virtual reality headsets, now in use at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI), chemotherapy patients can “travel” to a favorite peaceful destination during their treatments, helping relieve anxiety, apprehension, depression and pain, and reduce the side effects of fatigue. Patients feel more energized after their virtual reality experience.
Research shows, and patients have reported, that the use of virtual reality headsets is improving the patient experience. A pilot study on the virtual reality program documents overwhelmingly positive comments from patients. All of the participants said they enjoyed the experience, 98 percent reported it was relaxing, and 64 percent said it reduced anxiety and boredom.
“Our virtual reality headsets are a way for patients to transform themselves to a place of happiness, peacefulness and relaxation,” finds Sue Root, Quality of Life director at GHCI, who was instrumental in obtaining the funds to offer this service to patients.
“Patients are worried and anxious about their chemotherapy. What is going to happen? Will they be in pain? Will the treatments work? How long do they need to stay connected to an IV line? The minutes seem to drag on and on during their therapy, and so can their added stress,” Root notes. “If we can provide a positive, relaxing distraction, an escape from their life of cancer, patients will feel much better and more comfortable about their treatments and leave here much happier,” she finds. “We are helping remove them from the reality of their treatment and taking them to a place of peacefulness.
“You can tell someone how to meditate and imagine they are in a place of calmness, but during a chemotherapy session, that is almost impossible with all of the surrounding distractions,” Root finds. “Virtual reality through our headsets allows patients to see the visuals and hear the sounds of comfort, making it so much easier to find that place of peace.”
The headsets are simple to use. They are a hands-free individual unit. Patients can choose from 36 different experiences – life on a beach in Cape Cod, Irish landscapes, swimming with aquatic life or listening to and watching the gentle, soothing sounds of ocean waves. They also can tune into general educational information about their cancer, treatments, side effects and what to expect as a cancer patient – information they received from their physician but also offered visually and in easier to understand terms they can listen to as often as they want. The GHCI staff will show patients how the headsets work and guide them through the process of finding programs they want to watch. Programs run from five to 10 minutes in length.
The headsets are available to any patient undergoing chemotherapy but are not recommended for patients who have issues with dizziness, vertigo or motion sickness.
To learn more about this new service, offered only at GHCI, call Sue Root at 810.762.8022.