Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Office of Research & Development

print icon sign up for VA Research updates

View: Recent Awards || All Awards

May 19, 2023

Bailey, Rawlins, and VA Immersive team honored for public service

Dr. Anne Lord Bailey (right) and Caitlin Rawlins, RN (left

(From left to right) Caitlin Rawlins, RN, and Dr. Anne Lord Bailey

Dr. Anne Lord Bailey, Caitlin Rawlins, RN, and the VA Immersive Team have been recognized as finalists for the 2023 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the “Sammies.” The Sammie awards honor exceptional public servants who embody “remarkable accomplishments that benefit the nation, build trust in government, and inspire more people to build careers in public service.”

Bailey and her team were recognized for creating a nationwide extended reality network that enables VA medical centers to use the latest immersive technologies—like virtual reality and augmented reality—to transform the way Veterans receive care for conditions like chronic pain and anxiety.

Bailey is the immersive technology lead for the VA Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning (OHIL), a program office that focuses on driving the discovery and use of innovative healthcare solutions for Veterans. Bailey and the VA Immersive team are working hard to identify and promote technologies like virtual reality across the VA health care system.

“Our goal is to test and evaluate thoughtfully designed and developed solutions that respond to  Veteran and VA-specific health care needs,” said Bailey. “We believe immersive technology is defining a new reality in Veteran health care, and we’re excited to see growth and expansion of a clinical tool that Veterans and VA staff continue to request.”

VA has implemented a number of virtual reality applications in more than 30 different use cases across VA medical centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. VA now leads the country in clinical implementation of immersive technology and has deployed over 1,200 virtual reality headsets across more than 160 VA medical centers. VA’s use of immersive technology has helped to improve rehabilitative care, staff training, and the treatment of health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain.

“The value to the Veteran population has been incredible. This sets the stage to change and save Veterans’ lives through an early adoption and refinement of new immersive technology,” said Kristopher Teague, executive director of the VHA Innovation Ecosystem.

Most people who have tried virtual reality can appreciate how impactful the immersive experience can be. Virtual reality engages the senses in such a realistic manner that Veterans can briefly forget where they are or what they are feeling. It is that act of distraction and sense of presence that can help patients who are experiencing post-operative pain or other distressing conditions and stressors. Additionally, Veterans can also learn new skills and engage in social interactions, among many other clinical and non-clinical opportunities. 

In 2017, Rawlins, who is the extended reality network lead for VA Immersive, recognized a need for more nonpharmacological and noninvasive pain management options in VA healthcare. She began leveraging the positive distraction potential of virtual reality to interrupt post-operative pain and anxiety signals and saw immediate positive responses from Veterans.

Veterans previously in pain often described the experience, in addition to pain intensity scores, through candid remarks such as, “I forgot about my pain,” “This took me out of these four walls to be able to relax,” or “This allowed me to feel less pain so I could do my physical therapy.” Pain, both acute and chronic, continues to be one of the top requested indications for immersive technology in VA healthcare.

Since the program’s launch at the Asheville VA Medical Center, the program has expanded from a single patient unit to multiple in-patient units, the Community Living Center, outpatient units like oncology and physical medicine, and hospice. Nearly 85% of users experienced a reduction in anxiety and more than 65% felt that their pain lessened with an average 30% decrease in pain intensity.

To hear Veterans talk about their experiences using virtual reality during the 2022 Veteran eXpeRiance event, click here.  To learn more about VA Immersive technology, or to find a local site, visit VA Immersive online.

Questions about the R&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.