PHILADELPHIA (October 16, 2023) – Penn Nursing, with partners from the Annenberg Virtual Reality ColLABorative and New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, have been awarded 2023 grant from the Hillman Emergent Innovation: Serious Illness and End of Life program to study the use of social virtual reality (VR) in enhancing the treatment experience and reducing loneliness in people undergoing hemodialysis. This grant is awarded by The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation.
Hemodialysis is a life-saving treatment for people experiencing end stage kidney disease. Treatments are typically three times a week and each session lasts three to four hours. The experience can be isolating and so uncomfortable that patients skip future sessions, which can rapidly worsen their condition. This $50,000 pilot study testing social VR during hemodialysis uses low cost, off-the-shelf solutions to remove the environment that patients find dull and replace it with a more stimulating one.
Led by Penn Nursing’s Lea Ann Matura, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, Associate Professor of Nursing and Vice Chair of the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, the study will connect dialysis patients in outpatient centers across Philadelphia in an immersive, realistic VR film theater. The project will explore a new nurse-moderated, social VR experience to decrease isolation and increase health literacy and adherence to treatment in marginalized communities. The study begins in 2024 and runs for 18 months.
“Social VR is a contrast to depersonalized care. It can remove the environment that patients find dull and replace it with a more stimulating one. VR may promote self-care agency by offering choices in how they spend their time during treatment sessions,” said Matura. “VR compels an understanding of the needs and preferences of patients and lends itself to multidisciplinary integration providing enhanced holistic care. It also focuses on caring for the patient rather than treating a disease.”
Co-investigators include Penn Nursing’s Subhash Aryal, PhD, MS, Director, BECCA Lab & Research Associate Professor; Linda Ruggiero, PhD, BSN, BS, RN-BC , Clinical Nurse at Penn Medicine; Maya Clark-Cutaia, PhD, RN, MSN, Assistant Professor, NYU College of Nursing; and Kyle Cassidy, BS, a digital design specialist at the Annenberg School for Communication.
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The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing. For the eighth year in a row, it is ranked the #1 nursing school in the world by QS University. For the third year in a row, our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is ranked # 1 in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. Penn Nursing is also consistently ranked highly in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of best graduate schools and is ranked as one of the top schools of nursing in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through innovation in research, education, and practice. Follow Penn Nursing on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Instagram.