Celebrating National Play in Hospital Week - A Health Play Specialist talks about her role with children in the Emergency Department
Ever wondered what the role of a Health Play Specialist
entails? To celebrate National Play in Hospital week
(28th September - 4th October), Sarah Nield,
HPS in Royal Manchester Children's Hospital's Paediatric Emergency
Department has told the story of what her role means to the
children she looks after.
"Responding and meeting the needs of sick children and families
is both challenging and humbling. In some of the most devastating
circumstances children and families demonstrate unbelievable
strength and courage. I have been and continue to be lucky enough
to meet and get to know amazing real life super heroes. Working in
healthcare allows for the realities and perspectives of life and
death to be realised and respected. We all go through many, various
and unique life experiences, illness does not discriminate. We are
all going to be affected by life changing events and bereavement.
The way we cope is primarily determined by individual resilience
and the support network available to the person.
"Contributions from Therapeutic and Specialised Play Services
are developing extensively at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital
(RMCH). Recognition from the multi-disciplinary team regarding the
value of play is fundamental to successful collaborative practice.
The work of Health Play Specialists leading psychological
preparation, instigating distraction techniques for clinical
interventions and post-procedural play are necessary and interwoven
with the excellence of clinical practice. Health Play Specialists
are experts in child development theory and competent in observing
behaviours, documenting, planning and delivering interventions and
individual play programmes for children and recreational activities
for young people.
"The role of the Health Play Specialist (HPS) is largely
determined by the environment the HPS is working in. The atmosphere
in Paediatric Emergency Department (PED) alters considerably during
a shift. The hospital is a major trauma centre therefore serious
incidents frequently occur in this setting. Children arrive in the
department by ambulance or walk/are carried in by parents/carers
that have used their own or other modes of transport. Children that
have suffered a trauma such as a road traffic collision or a fall
arrive by ambulance and are seen immediately. Children that are
unconscious, sepsis, having respiratory difficulties, having
seizures, have a visible skin rash and allergic reactions are
prioritised, therefore seen quickly.
"Front line staff, from the receptionists (they obtain
identification details of patients attending PED), the Triage Nurse
(for the initial assessment -the child is seen and reviewed) and
the HPS to the Staff Nurses, Sisters, Doctors and Consultants in
the Department, all are collectively involved in each child's care.
The PED team through observations and collaborative practice are
ensuring abrupt identification of deteriorating or critically
unwell patients. The work in PED is frequently relentless. Working
as a multi-disciplinary team and relying on the interconnected
relationships, valuing and complimenting each other's abilities.
Ultimately we are concerned with improving the patients and
families hospital journey.
"A HPS is required to communicate effectively, explain
information at appropriate developmental levels, whilst being
compassionate and sensitive in her/his approaches to children and
families. Possessing an inclusive outlook, respecting and having an
awareness of cultural differences and persistently safeguarding
children and young people are of paramount importance in the HPS
role. The HPS must ensure that appropriate play and recreation
activities are available and accessible to all children and young
people -meeting the specific needs of the individual is very
important. Awareness and sensitivity regarding the impact of
illness, injury, health conditions and hospitalisation to the child
and his/her family is an on-going learning journey. Empathy,
compassion, care, honesty is crucial to understanding and
supporting the patient experience. Holistic care is very important
to ensuring quality provisions for children and their families.
Holistic care is realising all aspects that make a person who he or
she is, their emotional, social, economic, spiritual and physical
needs are considered -the care given is person centred. Best
practice is about approaching everyday practice in a positive,
creative and responsive manner which enables the child and family
to cope with their hospital experience.
"Team work is fundamental to striving towards best practice - as
a team more can be accomplished. Play practitioners work and play
hard. Play Leaders assess the needs of patients to determine
suitable play provisions, ensure a safe play environment. Play
practitioners advocate on behalf of children and families.
Inclusive activities for patients and siblings are facilitated,
alleviating boredom through play activities. Occupying time and
having other goals -focusing on the personality of an individual
rather than her/his illness.
"Play practitioners promote important health messages -hand
hygiene, healthier behaviours, eating habits, dental hygiene, road
safety and hazard perception awareness (keeping hot drinks and hair
straighteners out of reach, supervision to prevent drowning,
choking, suffocation). Play Leaders liaise with us regarding
evaluating specific needs -children with autism, children with
aversion to needles, fear and anxiety issues. We welcome and
encourage patients' feedback. The Children's Hospital Youth Forum
group meet monthly."
The play department provides diagnostic, therapeutic,
developmental and specialised play for all children/young people
and families from all cultures and background.
For more information about the team, please contact
Susan Fairclough on firstname.lastname@example.org
or ext. 15652.