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Play team (Paediatrics)

Children's services A-Z

Boy playing on ipad accompanied by hospital staff

The role of the play team is to help a child’s stay in hospital be less traumatic and to provide familiar play environments.

The team provide a range of services to children, young people and their families including therapeutic play to help them to understand and cope with their treatment and also play sessions to reduce anxiety and have fun.

Why is play important in a healthcare setting?

Play is at the very centre of a healthy child’s life. From the earliest age, playing helps children to learn, to relate to other people and to have fun. When children or teenagers are admitted to hospital, they are at their most vulnerable, separated from their friends and familiar surroundings.

Play in hospital:

  • Creates an environment where stress and anxiety are reduced.
  • Helps the child regain confidence and self-esteem.
  • Provides an outlet for feelings of anger and frustration.
  • Helps the child understand treatment and illness. Through play, children are able to effectively learn the sensory and concrete information they need to prepare for hospital procedures and treatment.
  • Aids in assessment and diagnosis.
  • Speeds recovery and rehabilitation

(National Association of Health Play Specialists)

What staff roles are there in the play team?

The play team have 2 staff roles, play team Nursery Nurses and Healthcare Play Specialists; recognisable by their purple polo shirts.

What qualifications and experience do members of the play team hold?

All members of the play team hold Level 3 childcare qualifications and have prior experience of working in community settings before joining the hospital play team.

Healthcare Play Specialists hold an additional dedicated qualification in Healthcare Play Specialism and maintain a professional registration in order to practice.

How do the play team help children and families prepare for and cope with procedures?

Supported by Healthcare Play Specialists, children and young people are helped to understand and make sense of their treatment and medical interventions.

Play Specialists use lots of different techniques and adapt to the needs of individual children and young people to support them including:

  • Role play with models of medical equipment
  • Role play or practice using real medical equipment
  • Teddies or dolls who go through the same procedure
  • Photo stories and social stories about going to theatre or a specific procedure
  • Apps and online resources on digital devices
  • Helping children to develop coping strategies including distraction therapy or guided imagery
  • Informed discussion about the process
  • Visiting the area where the procedure will take place

How do the play team help children and young people have fun in hospital?

The play team provide activities for children and young people at the bedside or in the play or teen rooms. They will deliver play/activity sessions to children and young people who have long term admissions or who are anxious or distressed either individually or in small groups.

Having fun helps children through their recovery, supports their mental health and well-being. The play team makes sure they continue to have playful experiences throughout their hospital stay.

How do the play team support parents, carers and siblings?

Parents and carers are supported by the play team to help with explaining complicated illness or procedures to their child and can offer a much needed break while their child is engaged in activities.

Siblings can feel upset and concerned when they have a brother or sister in hospital, they may not understand what is happening, feel left out and have to spend time in hospital when parents visit. The play team can work with siblings in the same way as their patients, helping them to understand what is happening and also to have something to do and have fun when they visit.

How do the play team make sure that play is safe?

The play team makes sure that toys and activities provided are safe to use and cleaned regularly to meet hospital standards. They are also responsible for maintaining toys and activities that are suitable for children and young people of different ages, cultures and individual needs.

How are play resources and activities funded in the hospital?

The play team rely on donations to fund the activities we provide for patients. Please speak to a member of the play team or contact ACT (opens in a new tab) for details about our fundraising opportunities.