A virtual psychiatric ward for orientating patients admitted for the first time

Wai Chi LAU, Kup Sze CHOI, Wai Yee Joanne CHUNG

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Misconceptions about psychiatric wards frequently cause newly admitted mental patients to stay away from these wards despite their need for treatment. Although ward orientation is typically conducted by nurses in an attempt to help patients to adapt to the new environment, it is considered time-consuming, and the method of orientation and the explanations given may vary among different nurses. This situation calls for a more effective and standardized approach to orientating mental patients on their first admission. To this end, a computer-based interactive virtual environment was developed based on a real psychiatric ward by using virtual reality (VR) technologies. It enables the patient to navigate around to gain understanding about the ward through a virtual guided tour. The effectiveness of this VR orientation approach was investigated by a randomized controlled trial with consecutive sampling. Fifty-four Chinese participants were randomly assigned to undergo ward orientation by either using the VR-based approach or reading text-based electronic information sheets about the ward with a computer. Subjective and objective measures were obtained respectively using the Chinese version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory questionnaire and the heart-rate variability measurement before and after the intervention. In addition, a test on the level of understanding about the ward was administered at the end of the session. The results showed that the VR orientation approach is helpful in reducing patients' anxiety while also improving their level of understanding about the ward. Copyright © 2010 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-648
JournalCyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


Lau, W.-C., Choi, K.-S., & Chung, W.-Y. (2010). A virtual psychiatric ward for orientating patients admitted for the first time. CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 13(6), 637-648.


  • Hospital wards
  • Virtual reality
  • Psychotherapy patients
  • People with mental disabilities -- Orientation & mobility
  • Psychiatric hospital admission & discharge


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