Back to Top Virtual reality can help patients go on a getaway - The Ottawa Hospital
 

Virtual reality can help patients go on a getaway

 
Jennifer Shamess

Jennifer Shamess, former patient and member of the Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council, tested out the virtual reality equipment

Imagine looking out onto a mountain vista. You hear the birds chirping, you see the sun beaming down on the mountain range, and you watch as butterflies float by. It doesn’t sound like a typical chemotherapy or radiation treatment, does it?

With help from virtual reality (VR), patients undergoing cancer treatment at The Ottawa Hospital could soon take a virtual getaway from their hospital beds.

That’s good news for Jennifer Shamess, former patient and member of the Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council.  She said that when she was at the hospital, she was always dreaming of being somewhere else.

“With virtual reality, I would have had some help in escaping for a few minutes,” said Jennifer.

Dr. Justin Sutherland, a medical physicist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor in the Department of Radiology at The University of Ottawa, said that virtual reality can be an effective tool for cancer patients.

“It’s all about taking patients out of a potentially uncomfortable experience, and bringing them somewhere pleasant,” said Dr. Sutherland. “It tricks your brain into thinking you’re there, which can improve one’s mental health.”

Engineering students at The University of Ottawa teamed up with The Ottawa Hospital to design a simulation that cancer patients could experience during treatment. Students worked together in groups as part of the Makerspace VR Challenge.

“I was impressed with every design”

The students consulted with Jennifer and other Patient and Family Advisors.  Advisors made design suggestions such as avoiding fast motions, bright colours and loud noises.

Each group delivered a unique virtual experience. The winning design, created by second year students, was a boat ride.  Patients could customize certain features such as colour, movement and length of the ride to create a unique experience. Other designs featured studio meditations, hiking up a mountain, or floating in space.

“I was impressed with every design,” said Jennifer. “Each group carefully listened to the considerations that were important to us, and then tried to integrate them into a unique VR experience.” Patients aren’t the only ones who could benefit from VR. Soon, cancer patients and their families may be able to share the same immersive experience together. 

 
Comment

Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


You might also like…

Do nicotine replacement products work? Expert answers to your stop smoking questions

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Learn evidence-based answers to common smoking cessation questions to help you quit for good.

Do you want to quit smoking? We have resources to help you

Thinking about quitting smoking? You don’t have to be a patient to get support and stop-smoking aids through The Ottawa Hospital’s smoking cessation programs.

Not just another furry face: The scientific benefits of therapy dogs

Copain, a six-year-old standard poodle therapy dog regularly leans lovingly into the lap of a patient. Little does he know his “hug” produces many scientifically-backed benefits for hospital patients and staff.

Cochlear implants: a potential solution to hearing loss when hearing aids aren’t enough

Wayne Herrick had cochlear implant surgery at The Ottawa Hospital after struggling for years with hearing aids. Now, thanks to his cochlear implants, Wayne is back to enjoying his active life.

Pushing limits: Canadian soldier leads incredible life before and after IED blast

When an IED in Afghanistan caused significant injuries to Sgt. Bjarne Nielsen’s body, his recovery journey led him to specialized rehabilitation at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dream vacation becomes nightmare after COVID-19 strikes

Sun and sand turned to fear and uncertainty when Jim and Joanne Booth, married for 57 years, tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020. Read about their journey back home to receive life-saving care at The Ottawa Hospital.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.