Meet our play specialists

Posted on Tuesday 10th October 2017
Play specialists working with patients

Play specialists working with patients.

Our play specialists are a vital part of Evelina London, providing fun and support to the children we treat, and their families. They share what it means to be a play specialist.

It’s a busy day at Evelina London and the team from our therapeutic and specialised play service are preparing for a full day of play. Tracy Sutherland, play specialist team leader, explains what play specialists do:

“Play is an essential part of childhood and that doesn’t stop just because a child is in hospital. Our play specialists are specially trained to provide play as part of a patient’s care. It can mean finding activities to keep children entertained on the wards, using distractive play to help children cope with pain or a procedure, and even working with siblings to help them feel more involved when the focus has to be on their brother or sister.”

Clare Perrett is a senior play specialist on Savannah Ward who cares for children requiring treatment for heart problems. One of her patients, Thomas Page, aged 10 months, has been in hospital since he was born.

“Thomas came to my ward and I spent time with him every day for months. A big part of a baby’s development comes from socialising and play is the perfect way to do that. With Thomas we’ve made sure that he meets lots of people of all ages because that’s who he’d meet if he wasn’t in hospital. For me, building that relationship and that trust with children is the most important part of my job so I still visit Thomas from time to time even though he’s since moved to a different ward.”

Thomas’ mum, Emma, has seen first-hand the impact that Clare and her fellow play specialist, Cara Boyle, have had on Thomas.

“His dad and I can’t always be in the hospital but we know that if we can’t make it in for the day Clare or Cara will be there to make sure that Thomas gets to play. The work they do is amazing, Thomas wouldn’t have half the social skills he has if it wasn’t for the play specialists.”

Our play specialists don’t just work with children. Jane Sivyer is a senior play specialist on Forest Ward, our paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and she runs craft workshops for parents.

“Hospital can be just as hard for the parents as it is for the children. Most of their time in hospital is spent with their child, or discussing their child’s illness with staff, so it’s really important they get the chance to have a break.

“At the craft workshops we talk about everything from what we’re making to what we watched on TV last night. But it’s also a great source of support and parents often use the time to talk about any problems they’re having as there’s likely to be someone else in the group who can give advice.”

Our play specialists can be found all over our hospital from the wards to outpatients clinics and even in our Paediatric Emergency Department (Children’s A&E). They work with young children and teenagers alike, bringing a friendly face to help support them through their stay.

Monday 9 October – Sunday 15 October is Play in Hospitals Week and we’re celebrating with activities every day. Children will be taking part in art sessions, interactive storytelling, parties and more.

You can learn more about our play specialists and what they do on their team page.