The play specialist team, like everyone else, has had to adapt their work considerably since the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020. But with playrooms shut and families facing sometimes considerable periods of time apart, the need for a specialist play provision within the hospital is more vital now than ever before.
Here play specialist, Juliet, tells us a bit about how she has had to adapt within her role to continue to support children and families through the many changes of the last year.
“One of the first things we did at the beginning of this, while continuing the day to day tasks of providing normalising play and distraction and preparing patients for treatment, was create isolation packs, each one tailored to ages and abilities.
We have been explaining PPE to children. When all of a sudden staff are wearing masks visors gloves and aprons, it can be terrifying, so gentle explanation goes a long way to easing fear. If they’re very little, I just liken it to Buzz Lightyear!
We can still only allow one parent to stay with their child and the emotional toll of that for families is huge. We try and ease it by allowing the resident parent to go off the ward for a walk or to phone family while we give one to one play sessions to their child. So it has a twofold effect, the parent is rested benefiting their mental health and the child has a pleasurable experience from “a masked member of staff” – therefore associating pleasure rather than fear with PPE.
We have a number of children undergoing neuro rehabilitation, one of whom I’m working with quite intensely. I am currently working on giving her different sensory textures, while using the associated words. Cold, soft, spiky etc. (it’s very hard when I’m gloved up though
I am as always trying to ensure that our long term babies are up to speed with their development and parents find it quite comforting to focus on something like tummy time rather than the terrifying surroundings.
I’m distracting patients for unpleasant procedures; that won’t change. I just use washable resources, and of course I can’t blow bubbles, due to being masked and all, and infection risk.
Because all playrooms are shut, we ensure each patient has enough stimulation and comfort in their rooms, taking play to them, being extra careful with cleaning toys afterwards. (I’m talking every game piece).
I did feel initially that I would get under the nurses feet and I voiced that to a nurse friend. She looked at me surprised and said: “Juliet, we couldn’t cope without the play team, I have to admit that did bring a tear to my eye.”