Children needing operations to benefit from new virtual reality app

Children who need to visit hospital for an operation can now feel more at ease thanks to a new mobile phone app.

Little Journey is a national smartphone app that provides an interactive tour of the areas your child will visit. This allows your child to take a virtual reality (VR) tour of the department and who they will meet.

Staff at the children’s outpatient department at Grimsby hospital.

The app helps make children feel less anxious about coming into hospital. When parents attend pre-assessment appointments with their child, they can ask questions to the nurse. This app can be used prior to pre-assessment help show the child their journey whilst at the hospital. This can support their understanding of what will happen.

The app, which was created by Dr Chris Evans, has been funded by the Health Tree Foundation (HTF) – the official charity for the hospital.

Frida Livermore, paediatric staff nurse at the children’s outpatient department at Grimsby hospital, said: “The app was created for planned day surgery but it will also serve as a quick guide for the children that are booked in for emergency surgery who wouldn’t normally have chance or time for any preparation. This will hopefully give those children chance to understand what will happen.

“Although this was all planned pre-Covid, they are now more relevant than ever as anxiety is heightened and children/families are unable to visit the hospital for pre-assessment or tour the ward which was offered previously.

“From the app we are going to gain lots of valuable feedback too, hopefully to improve services as many parents are too busy on the ward to fill out feedback forms. This allows families to feedback at their own pace and it’s all anonymous too.”

All parents have to do is download the app or scan a QR code on posters which are up in the hospital to be able to access the app. Leaflets will also be sent to children prior to pre-assessment with information about the app.

Children and parents can navigate and explore the pathway they will follow on the day of their procedure. At each location, you can either select 2D – if you are using a smartphone or tablet alone, or 3D if you have access to a VR headset.

Video creator Jacob recording sound for the app in the pre-assessment room.

Children can then move around and see a 360 degree image of each area they will be visiting on the day of their procedure; the waiting room, ward, and theatre.

While they are exploring each room, an animation will explain to them what they could see and feel on the day. There is also an area where children can practice breathing exercises to help keep them relaxed on the day. The parents section also provides many useful preparation tips too.

Children who took part in the videos for the Trust website.

As part of improvements into pre-assessment services, YouTube videos for Grimsby day surgery, MRI, skin prick testing and blood samples have been created free of charge thanks to Jacob White from Jaw Media. These can be viewed on the Children’s Services page.

Emma Hartley, Scunthorpe community champion for HTF, said: “The Health Tree Foundation is so happy to be able to support children attending our hospitals and help to ease their anxiety. Hospital can be such a daunting place for young ones, so to know that we have prepared them for their visit and they are fully informed with everything they need is such a fantastic feeling!

The opening of the new pre-assessment room at the Child Development Centre last year.

“We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Chris at Littlesparkshospital.com for building the app with the team and to Jacob at Jaw Media for taking time to make some fantastic videos which will help ease children’s worries.”

Video of Sofia using the Little Journey app on a tablet device

There have been a number of improvements in children’s outpatients at Grimsby recently including a new children’s pre-assessment room which opened at the Child Development Centre (CDC) last year. This new room is a relaxing area for children and their parents and has colourful artwork including a bear-themed wall.