Virtual reality helps to reduce stress in healthcare professionals during the pandemic of COVID-19 – #BHHMembersInitiatives

A study conducted at Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in early 2021 demonstrates a significant decrease in the perception of anxiety after experiencing a 13-minute relaxation virtual reality program.

The Psychiatry Service and the Innovation program of the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital, in collaboration with BHH member VRPharma Immersive Technologies, have led a study to reduce the stress of healthcare professionals in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic through a relaxation program with virtual reality. Thus, in February 2021, in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, a pilot test was carried out in the Emergency Department with the participation of 26 professionals, half of them nurses and the other half physicians.

The professionals participated in a relaxation program carried out during working hours. The program consisted of putting on a virtual reality headset and the Ocean Breeze content from VRPharma, a 13 minutes long virtual reality experience that allows the person to be immersed in a relaxing costal/ocean environment with ambient sound and soft music.

During the experience, breathing lines in the shape of a circle inflate and deflate to help the user be conscious of his breathing rhythm and help calm down and lower the heart rate. Both before and after the virtual reality experience, the professionals underwent psychological and physiological tests to measure their stress level. After the experience, the emergency professionals reported a significant decrease in the level of stress, especially in terms of the subjective feeling of anxiety.

This initiative is part of a global project from the Hospital to support healthcare professionals. This project started in April 2021 at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. Dr. Joan de Pablo Rabassó, head of the Psychiatry Service, found the study very positive since “it opens the door to use virtual reality procedures to help control stress and anxiety in professionals and possibly in other groups of people”.

The Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital has similar experiences with virtual reality focused on calming the anxiety of patients, mainly in young children, before surgical procedures or diagnostic tests. This, however, is the first time that this technology is applied to the center’s medical professionals.