Young patients and staff at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust are celebrating National Play in Hospital Week this week using the theme of Super heroes. The week runs from Monday 8th–12th October, and is organised by the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and supported by Starlight Children’s Foundation, a national charity which provides play and distraction services in hospitals and hospices across the UK.
Play specialists at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust have planned a week of fun activities, including super hero mask making, cake decorating and painting super hero money box ceramics which have been paid for by Aidan’s Activity Fund. This fund has raised more than £12,000 to buy arts and crafts, toys and games so that patients are occupied during what can be lonely and long periods of treatment and recovery.
Portsmouth Hospitals has four play specialists who each have a background in nursery nursing and further qualifications in play specialism. Sue Richardson and Tracy Morgan work on starfish ward (medical), Anne Ricketts shipwreck ward (surgical) and Zoe Parton (who works in the Emergency Department). They provide preparation, distraction, post procedural therapy as well as normal and developmental play. This is offered in the Children’s Emergency Department, on the wards and at the bedside as well as in the dedicated activity room, play room, sensory room and through outdoor play. Each bay has toys and every child is provided with activities each day.
Zoe Parton, Play Specialist in the Emergency Department explained “Play therapy can turn what could be a frightening experience into a manageable positive experience. It is lovely to see the change in a child who has had the opportunity express their fears through play. By working with them and their family we can help them to understand what’s happening to them. Sometimes we get tears and tantrums because the children then don’t want to leave the hospital because they’ve been having so much fun.”
The play specialists at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust have a diverse range of toys, games and activities as well as equipment such as a PlayStation and DVD player. They also use special teddies and dolls which can be used to show the different drips, tubes and stickers that a child might have during their admission.
Sue Richardson, Play Specialist on Starfish ward added “it’s about giving the children a positive experience of the hospital. Through our work and the play techniques we use we can prepare children and young people for a procedure or operation in a way that they can understand and come to terms with. While for children who are in hospital for long periods, sometimes months, it’s important to keep things normal and help them to continue to develop and learn through play. It’s a very rewarding job, knowing that you have contributed towards making a child’s stay in hospital fun and less traumatic”.
National Play in Hospital Week was set up in 2010 to raise awareness of the positive impact of play on sick children and young people in a hospital setting. Now in its eighth-year hospitals and hospices across the country, including Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, got behind the annual event with a week of play related activities.