There was a recent study by the US National Library of Medicine that states that 50% of children have needle fear. Adults can also struggle, especially when they have experienced a traumatic needle procedure as a child.
Child life specialists provide developmentally appropriate information about medical procedures and teach children coping skills. One tool that many specialists incorporate is virtual reality (VR) goggles. Being immersed in a VR game or video can help distract patients and allow medical providers to complete their job without causing trauma.
I’m thrilled to share an amazing new resource that is supporting children with needle fear, Smileyscope. I had the opportunity to play with SmileyScope and see all the features it offers. The one thing that I loved the most is that it provides patients with an underwater experience that aligns with receiving a needle procedure such as a blood draw, vaccination, or port access.
Guest Blogger, Michelle Loughery from Smileyscope
Understanding from other Child Life Specialists I have talked with, Covid-19 has significantly changed the way your profession supports children and families’ medical experiences. There is now an innovative option that reframes needle procedures – which children fear the most – and can assist you on several levels. Smileyscope will enable you to be better equipped to ‘social distance,’ while still successfully achieving your objectives to improve patients’ fear and anxiety in stressful environments.
Smileyscope is a 510K exempt, Class I medical-grade Virtual Reality (VR) goggle with proprietary software for:
- Needle procedures – a choreographed “underwater adventure” to help reduce pain, anxiety, and first-stick success, with virtual waves that match when the clinician cleans with antiseptic, and fish nibble when the needle is inserted (this is patented and unique to Smileyscope)
- Deep breathing – to support patients during times of high anxiety and distress, with a focus on being calm
- Wellness – mindfulness and relaxation with music therapy, to allow children to virtually visit with seals and kittens, and also experience a virtual “cafe”
The goal is to improve the experience for the patient, parents, and health care providers and to reduce workplace disruption and costly delays or multiple attempts of the procedure. Smileyscope was developed by a multidisciplinary team – including CLSs – with two large RCT trials performed (The Journal of Pediatrics) documenting the efficacy in reducing pain, anxiety, and the need for restraints in patients 4-11 years of age. The facilities in which the trial took place were Monash Children’s and Royal Children’s Hospitals, both in Melbourne, Australia, where Smileyscope as a company was founded.
Smileyscope’s VR goggles are specifically designed for easy disinfection between patients and exceeds hospital infection control standards. It is very easy to learn and use, requiring no change to your standard protocols for blood draws, IV catheters, or port accesses. Although several anesthesiologists have mentioned the need to wait to place an IV, provide a nerve block, or do a lumbar puncture after the child is sedated, all of these processes are done in the OR. Those in this arena understand Smileyscope could benefit them by using it as a distraction initially, eliminating the delay.
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