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Hospital Play Specialist Team

Children’s Hospital for Wales – A new vision for play services

Working in partnership with Noah’s Ark

The hospital play specialist team is funded by Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity and provides an invaluable service to children and their families. Using a variety of therapeutic tools, the play specialists work closely with the multi-disciplinary team to help children overcome any fears or concerns about their treatments.

Essential to the growth and development of children, play is at the centre of a healthy child’s life. It helps children to learn, to relate to other people and, of course, to have fun.

When children or teenagers are admitted to hospital they are at their most vulnerable.  Not only are they ill, but they are also separated from friends, family and familiar surroundings, and play can really make a difference to their progress and recovery.

Play in hospital:

  • minimises trauma
  • helps the child to cope with painful procedures
  • empowers and helps the child to regain control
  • helps the child work through regression by providing play which is familiar rather than challenging
  • creates an environment where stress and anxiety are reduced
  • helps the child regain confidence and self-esteem
  • provides an outlet for feelings of anger and frustration
  • helps the child understand illness and treatment. Through play, children effectively learn the information they need to prepare for hospital treatment and procedures
  • aids assessment and diagnosis
  • speeds recovery and supports rehabilitation

In order to inform a new model, a 3600 review of therapeutic play was undertaken consulting with patients and family, specialist play staff and clinical colleagues, and benchmarking with other specialist children’s hospitals.

It concluded that play specialists have “a significant role to play in reducing pre-operative anxiety, by providing coping mechanisms and effective distraction” allowing procedures to go ahead at the first attempt.  Clinical colleagues valued this direct support to patients, particularly their working with Clinical Psychologists to overcome phobias and the communication of important clinical information in a child-friendly way.

The proposed clinical model will prioritise direct patient contact to undertake targeted outcomes. To do this the senior play specialists will operate on a referral basis, and play assistants will be based in the playrooms.

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