What is your current role?
I am the service lead and manager for Evelina London's therapeutic play service.
My role involves managing the team and promoting the importance of play for children and young people.
We make sure all our services (both in hospital and the community) are able to access support from our play team.
Why do we have a play team and why is it important?
The play team supports children and young people who are visiting or using our services. We support patients to understand why they are in hospital and prepare them for procedures. Therapeutic play can help to reduce the length of stay and the need for medications that relieve pain through preparation and distraction techniques.
Play is a powerful tool for communicating with children and young people, and our team can be the patient's advocate during discussions about their care. Play specialists have an excellent knowledge of child and young people’s development and can utilise those skills when planning support. Play and activities can be useful for gaining trust and aid in building relationships. They can also alleviate worries and is a natural way for patients to pass time and do something normal.
I love that every day is different. One moment, we might be using a virtual reality headset to transport a child to outer space and distract them from a blood test. Another moment, we might be setting up instruments in one of our play rooms to encourage a child to leave their hospital bed for the first time. We really encourage children and young people to draw and paint, and we frequently use this artwork to decorate our hospital. Recently, during the Platinum Jubilee, we helped children and young people create bunting and special drawings to celebrate, which were shown to our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge on a surprise visit.
What made you interested in working as a play specialist?
While undertaking nursery nurse training, I had the opportunity to shadow a play specialist at the Brook Hospital in Blackheath. Observing her role within a paediatric setting, delivering play and providing support for procedures, was a `light bulb' moment for me. I knew I wanted a future career as a play specialist in that moment 37 years ago, and I still enjoy my role today.
What is your favourite part of working for Evelina London?
My favourite part of my role is meeting patients and families daily and making a difference during what can be a stressful or difficult situation. I love working alongside excellent, skilled colleagues who contribute to and support my vision for Evelina London's play service.
What is your proudest moment?
The impact we have on patients and families makes me feel proud. One example that has come to mind is a young adult who was struggling to come to terms with life-changing injuries and palliative (end of life) care. Creating special memories for her and her family seemed to really make a difference, and her parents told me that they felt my support and 'being there' helped to make everything a little easier. I was especially able to help her siblings through play and therapeutic support.
Another particular moment that sticks in my memory was the day I became team lead and manager for the play service. I was delighted by the positive and encouraging feedback I received from managers and the wider team.
What does being part of Evelina London mean?
It means working with so many wonderful people, who all wish to make a difference for children and young people.
Tell us one fun fact about your job...
Being very silly (and sometimes quite messy!) can create a lot of happiness.
Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.