Virtual Reality for Health Care Professionals During a Pandemic: A Pilot Program

Ivana T. Croghan, Ryan T. Hurt, Christopher A. Aakre, Shawn C. Fokken, Karen M. Fischer, Stephanie A. Lindeen, Darrell R. Schroeder, Ravindra Ganesh, Karthik Ghosh, Brent A. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the safety and use of a nature-based virtual reality (VR) experience among health care providers (HCP) during a pandemic. Methods: Twenty-four frontline HCP participated in this crossover pilot where the viewing order of the experiences were randomized. All participants attended in-person consent, baseline, and end-of-study visits. The intervention consisted of viewing 2 nature-based scenes (“walk in the woods” and “forest of focus”) through 3-D VR and with computer 4K graphic imagery. Randomization took place with regards to the viewing order (VR vs 4K computer video, scene 1 and 2). Outcomes measured were safety, acceptability and changes in intensity of anxiety feelings, resilience, emotional distress, cognitive function, and self-efficacy. Results: Among the 26 HCP expressing interest in the study, 24 enrolled in this study. The majority were male (58.3%), white (66.7%) and of an average age of 46.3 ± 10.5 years (standard deviation (SD)). End of the study survey showed that almost all participants (96%) would participate in the study again and recommend it to others. Twenty-three of the 24 participants also felt relaxed after seeing the imagery. With respect to anxiety (as measured by the STAI Y1), the VR “walk in the woods” had the greatest reduction from pre to post (6.4 points, SD = 5.98) followed by VR “forest of focus” (5.8 points, SD = 9.29), computer screen “forest of focus” (5.0 points, SD = 8.89), and computer screen “walk in the woods” (4.1 points, SD = 6.22). All 4 sessions had a significant decrease in score from pre to post (P-values ≤.005), but there was no significant difference in the change from pre- to post-session between the 4 groups (P-value =.5835). Conclusion: The use of the VR among HCP has promise for reducing stress among health care providers during a high stress period, such as a pandemic but much larger studies are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Primary Care and Community Health
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • first responders
  • pandemic
  • virtual reality
  • wearable technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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