OLCHC Celebrates 20 years of play in the treatment of children

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Running from 8th–12th October, 2018, ‘Play in Hospital Week’ is organised by the Play Department in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin (OLCHC) and is supported by the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF). It coincides with the National UK event to raise awareness and highlight the positive impact that play can have on sick children and young people in a hospital setting. 

This year’s Play in Hospital Week’s theme is centred around the work of the Health Play Specialist and it is a double celebration in OLCHC as the Play Department marks 20 years of providing play services to children, families and staff in the hospital.

To celebrate this, the Play Department, comprising of 13 play specialists have organised a week of play related fun activities for children, families, visitors and staff including; ward based activities with entertainers and singers, a puppet and magician show, play for babies, movie and pizza in one of the hospital’s lecture theatres and information displays as well as art and colouring competitions.Magician

With over 160,000 children treated annually in OLCHC, the need for play and entertainment services for children in hospital has never been greater. Research has highlighted the importance of play in hospital, both in preparing children for treatment and providing ways for 

them to work through anxieties and fears and deal with their experiences.

Tracey Wall, Director of Nursing, OLCHC said, “Play in Hospital Week is an important week in our hospital calendar as both children and families enjoy it so much. Play and distraction is a vital resource for hospitals in the treatment of children. It isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ it’s an essential service for maintaining the wellbeing and normal, healthy development of a child as well as being a coping strategy before and during treatment. The week is extra special this year as we celebrate 20 years of providing play services to children and families in the hospital.”

Katie McManus, who works as a Play Specialist with teenagers and adolescents on St. John’s Haematology Oncology Ward said, “The Play Team look to bring teenagers with cancer together so that they can share their cancer experience with their peers, which can help to reduce fear and isolation. The ‘Teen Room’ on St. John’s ward, is a hang-out specifically for teens where they can relax and enjoy a range of activities with others their own age, free from medical intervention. My role involves co-ordinating a range of activities such as baking, pizza parties and movie afternoons to encourage Teens on the ward to come together and to get a break from their patient rooms. I also work with Teens on a one-to-one basis, preparing them for medical interventions, helping them with distraction during procedures and post-procedural discussion to chat about what worked well and what they may have struggled with.”

Play group

Speaking about the value of play specialists to families in the hospital, Karen Stokes, Mum of Cara, aged 15 said, “The Play Specialist is a really important part of the hospital stay for my daughter and we’ve been attending Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin for the last 12 years. Our Play Specialist, Lorraine Smith has helped us prepare for and get through some of the very toughest procedures, treatments and surgeries. Every day, Lorraine goes above and beyond to make sure Cara is happy, occupied and always cheers her up if she is having a rough time.” 

The Play Department would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution that play volunteers from Children in Hospital Ireland (CHI) make to play services in the hospital. CHI is a national charity, which provides play volunteers in hospitals across Ireland.



About the Play Department in OLCHC

The aim of the Play Department is to assist in the creation of a welcoming, caring and safe family centred environment by providing play facilities appropriate to the needs of the children and their families. The team comprises 13 Play Specialists who provide specialised play and work as members of multi-disciplinary teams specialising in specific medical and surgical conditions. 

The Play Specialist Team try to make children’s experience of hospitalisation as positive as possible. This is achieved by explaining everything in a child friendly way. 

The role of a Play Specialist involves using tools such as medical dolls and child friendly information books, which help children during their hospital admission in a number of important ways. For example, the team uses medical dolls and teddies that are specially adapted to make some of the procedures and treatments visible for children. During this Medical Play, the Play Specialists can teach and practice the procedures and treatments on the dolls, which can help the children to understand what is going to happen to them. As a result they feel a little more confident about a procedure or treatment they may not have understood before.

As well as playing with the children, the Play Specialist helps them deal with illness-related stress, increase the use of positive coping strategies, and restores a sense of self, all while they are coping with their serious illness.