ICU Patients get a Helping Hand From RITA

Intensive care patients at Forth Valley Royal Hospital are getting a helping hand on the road to recovery, courtesy of a virtual staff member called RITA.

Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley’s Organ Donation Committee, the new piece of equipment allows patients to play games, watch films, listen to music and participate in other leisure activities as part of their recovery.

Known as RITA (Reminiscence Interactive Therapy Activities), the software therapy system has been used in the past to support care of patients with dementia. However, it is also useful for other patients, including people with delirium, and is therefore well suited to the critical care environment. The system enables patients and staff to access a range of interactive activities and resources designed to engage and focus patients, whilst drawing on familiar and comforting sensory experiences.

Dr Helen Tyler, Consultant in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine and NHS Forth Valley’s Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, explained: “In ICU we are using the RITA system to support delivery of person-centred care with access to a wide range of movies, music and images appropriate to them. If patients are able to participate in activities then they can join in rehabilitation exercise sessions or play games that promote group participation, co-ordination and, most of all, have a few laughs.”

Most patients listen to a music mix, watch films and use the touch screen to follow simple exercise routines such as arm exercises. Senior Charge Nurse for the Intensive Care Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Susan Barclay, says RITA is already showing herself to be very effective in calming distressed or anxious patients and is making a world of difference.

She explained: “As soon as RITA arrived in ICU we were surprised that straight away she became a valued member of our team! Being in a Covid-19 area can be isolating for patients, especially with visitor restrictions so ‘chatting’ with RITA gave them an hour’s respite. RITA is very much more than just a tablet or piece of software as it can really help brighten a patient’s day.”