VR goggles lead to major decrease in stress levels among ICU nurses

Virtually swimming with dolphins or strolling through the forest: research by the UMCG shows that this causes a 40% decrease in stress levels among ICU nurses.

The pressure on nurses has been high during the coronavirus pandemic. To tackle this, ICU nurses in the UMCG were able to use VRelax: an app that you can use on your own in combination with VR goggles. Previous research has already shown that the use of VRelax among people with depression, bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, or a psychotic disorder can help to improve their state of mind when they are scared or feeling down, for example.

The app consists of dozens of relaxing and interactive natural surroundings. This ranges from swimming with dolphins and relaxing on the beach or in the forest to joining a singing bowl sound bath. ‘With VRelax, we hoped to create a moment of peace for ICU nurses in between work’, explains researcher Mathijs Nijland. ‘Because of our research, we now know that it works: two out of five nurses immediately experienced lowered stress levels when using VRelax.’ Responses from users include: ‘It’s just like being on holiday for a little while’, and ‘It empowers you again’.

One in four used the VR goggles

Nurses were able to use the VR goggles during working hours in a special relaxation room, with the advice to use them for at least 10 minutes. Despite the work pressure, more than a quarter of all ICU nurses used the VR goggles at least once.

Lowers stress levels and easy to use

Before and after using VRelax, the ICU nurses indicated their stress levels on a scale from 0 to 100. Afterwards, all ICU nurses received a survey via email, in which they could express how they had experienced the use of VRelax and whether it was a helpful addition to their working process. The average decrease in stress levels was 40%. The vast majority of ICU nurses indicated that the use of VRelax helped to lower their stress levels and that the app was easy to use.

A notable hindrance from using it was the high workload during shifts, which at times prevented the ICU nurses from finding the time to schedule a short break.

Encouraging broader deployment

‘With the results of our research, we hope to encourage the broader deployment of initiatives such as VRelax in healthcare. Patients, but certainly also colleagues, could benefit from this’, states researcher Catheleine van Driel.

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UMCG researchers Mathijs Nijland, Wim Veling, Bart Leststuiver, and Catheleine van Driel published their research in Frontiers in Psychology.