Tampa General Hospital Partners with The Florida Aquarium to Bring Innovative, Immersive Experience to Pediatric Patients

Published: May 22, 2024

The Muma Children’s Hospital at TGH now offers robot-guided virtual aquarium tours to pediatric patients.


Video Link: https://vimeo.com/948343262/064327d2cc


Tampa, FL (May 22, 2024) –Tampa General Hospital (TGH) launched the first phase of a new, innovative program in partnership with The Florida Aquarium to provide pediatric patients with the opportunity to participate in immersive virtual tours of the aquarium from their hospital beds, with the help of a custom-built robot. As of its launch, the program is one of only a handful of such programs in the nation.


“We are tremendously proud to partner with The Florida Aquarium to revolutionize the care experience for our pediatric patients and their loved ones who are along for the duration of their care journey with them,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General and president of the Board of The Florida Aquarium. “When we think about innovation at Tampa General, we’re really thinking about new and unexpected ways to create value for our community and our team members. This program is an exceptional example of how an unconventional partnership can elevate the standard of care patients can expect to receive from an academic health system.”

As the region’s leading academic and research health system, Tampa General treats patients with some of the most critical and complex conditions, meaning some patients admitted to the Muma Children’s Hospital at TGH may spend several weeks or months in the hospital from the time they are admitted through their rehabilitation and recovery process. Recognizing that long-term pediatric patients may be unable to leave the hospital for extended periods of time, Tampa General and The Florida Aquarium collaborated to enable a meaningful connection to the world outside of the hospital’s walls.

“Both The Florida Aquarium and Tampa General share an unwavering commitment to healing and teaching, and a partnership to deliver on that with an exciting, first-of-its-kind educational experience for our community’s pediatric patients has been a rewarding opportunity,” said Roger Germann, president and CEO of The Florida Aquarium. “This has also been an incredible opportunity for our team to expand the impact of our work by engaging children who are excited to explore and learn, especially with their families or classmates, but may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit us.”

To support these patients at every step throughout their hospitalizations, Tampa General’s dedicated team of Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) promote effective coping through education about procedures and diagnoses, preparation and play to reduce stress and anxiety. The Muma Children’s Hospital at TGH’s CCLS team, through consultations with patients and their families, identify patients who are interested in taking 30-minute virtual tours of one of the aquarium’s four distinct habitats and work closely with their counterparts at The Florida Aquarium to schedule the tours, which are then conducted virtually using a remotely controlled robot driven by the patient using a laptop. Guided by a team member on the ground at the aquarium and a CCLS in the room with them, participating patients can freely explore the aquarium’s exhibits, moving the robot’s cameras up and down, and zooming in or out, to simulate the experience of an in-person tour.

This program was created with a patient-centered approach, tapping into Tampa General’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, a committee of former patients and their loved ones who regularly review and provide feedback that is incorporated into new policies, protocols or initiatives that impact patient experience. Additionally, prior to the program’s launch, Tampa General’s CCLS team engaged patients at the Muma Children’s Hospital by asking them to complete coloring sheets of the robot with a name nomination, which were then hung on the hospital’s walls for a voting period and determined the robot’s official name, Aquabot 3000. Once the Aquabot 3000 arrived at The Florida Aquarium, their staff teamed up with Tampa General to have real pediatric acute care and rehabilitation patients preview the program to ensure a fun and seamless user experience for future participants.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with The Florida Aquarium in such a meaningful way to set a new standard for what a stellar patient experience can and should look like for some of our youngest patients,” said Melissa Golombek, vice president of the Muma Children’s Hospital at TGH and the TGH Women’s Institute. “Not only does this program offer our pediatric patients something fun to look forward to during what is often a challenging time in their lives, but it gives them a sense of autonomy and an opportunity to create joyful childhood memories despite their illness or injury.”

Tampa General and The Florida Aquarium will continue to scale this partnership during a second phase, when they will acquire a second robot and create more opportunities for patients to engage with this cutting-edge technology.