The play specialist service has had to adapt considerably during the pandemic, extending its support to mums and dads while they struggle under the one parent only policy and bringing play to the bedside while play rooms remain shut. Play in hospital has always been vital, for mental and emotional development as well as distraction, relaxation and fun. But with children being separated, often for long periods, from friends and siblings and isolation offering very little opportunity to interact, the play service has been more vital than ever.
The Noah’s Ark Charity is proud to fund this team for the seventh consecutive year.
Senior play specialist, Juliet, told us how she had to adapt her role to help as the pandemic hit:
“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 staff are suddenly 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!
“The one parent only policy takes a huge emotional toll on families. So 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. This 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 scary 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 the infection risk.”