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‘Little Journey’ app helps children prepare for surgery

‘Little Journey’ app helps children prepare for surgery 


“The app was so helpful for my son Diarmuid - he could visualise his hospital experience and it really helped not only him, but me too”

Martina Fallon, Diarmuid’s mum, praising the new ‘Little Journey’ virtual reality app recently developed by staff at Portiuncula University Hospital. 

The app helps children between the ages of 3 and 12 to prepare for surgery and also helps to ease their anxiety in advance of their hospital stay. It provides 360-degree views of all the areas the children will visit at the hospital as well as useful information about anaesthesiology tailored to the age of the child.

Explaining the rationale behind the app, Dr Vinod Sudhir, Consultant Anaesthesiologist at Portiuncula University Hospital, said that “pre-operative anxiety in children and parents is a very real phenomenon before undergoing general anaesthesia. As healthcare professionals, we recognise the increasing impact of anxiety and the physiological negative impact it can have on the child’s and parents’ ability to cope with events surrounding the experience of anaesthesiology and surgery.

“Children may have anxiety around the multidisciplinary environment of the operating theatre; their expectation of events; meeting unfamiliar people and even fear of pain. Parents and guardians can accompany their young children to theatre and be present with them during induction of anaesthesia. Some of the parents’ anxiety comes from their fear of the unknown and the steps surrounding their role with their child at the time their child undergoes anaesthesia. By providing information through the app, which uses child-friendly animation, we can begin to prepare parents and guardians, as well as the children, for surgery and ease their distress.”

The app helps change the way children experience hospitals

Dr Sudhir continued: “The app was developed to help change the way children experience hospitals by empowering them and giving them the information, they need to reduce their anxiety in a fun, interactive format. It helps children to familiarise themselves with the hospital and includes handy checklists that help families to prepare in advance of the hospital stay.”

Dr Sudhir also noted how demand for general anaesthetic in children increased last year “due to the increase of paediatric day case surgery at the hospital. We want to help alleviate any distress due to anxiety, whether the child is presenting for surgery or investigative procedures.”

Describing Diarmuid’s experience, Martina explained how he “loved the different characters and games on the app. He played the games all the way in the car to the hospital. The app is also a really good information tool for parents; we loved it, it’s a great resource.”

James Keane, Hospital Manager, added that “the introduction of the ‘Little Journey’ app is a fantastic example of the dedication of the multidisciplinary team involved.  This includes theatre staff nurses, ancillary staff members in the operating theatres, paediatric unit staff, anaesthesiologists, surgeons, paediatricians, and emergency medicine colleagues – all working together to ensure children and their parents are able to prepare for surgery in the best possible way.”

Download the app

The ‘Little Journey’ app is free to download from Google Play Store or App Store. It can be used on a smartphone in 2D or using a 3D virtual reality headset. The app gives children the chance to meet the animated healthcare characters who will explain what they do and what happens on the day of surgery, see some of the equipment, and find out more about what to expect.  It also includes a virtual tour of the children’s day ward, the theatre room, and the recovery room at Portiuncula University Hospital.