Oxford hospitals mark play workers landmark with exhibition of photographs from Oxford Mail (From thisisoxfordshire)
When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Oxford hospitals mark play workers landmark with exhibition of photographs from Oxford Mail
MORE than 30 years ago, Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary employed its first play specialist.
Since 1980, the team has grown to 18 full- and part-time play staff across the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. They are helping to mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of play workers to hospitals nationally.
The trust has set up a display of old photographs, provided by the Oxford Mail, to demonstrate how the profession has changed.
Erica Watson, senior play specialist at the Oxford Children’s Hospital, started working at the trust in 1982.
The 54-year-old from Didcot said: “I think it has changed. I think there is more respect for the play specialists and the role that we do.”
They provide therapeutic play and preparation and support for potentially stressful experiences.
Mrs Watson said: “When I started working here, every child undergoing surgery would probably have had a pre-med and we probably didn’t go with them.
“Now most of the children walk down to the theatre if they are able to and a pre-med is only given if they are really anxious.
“Often it can be one of the play specialists that can take them to theatre because we have built up a relationship.”
“I think in Oxford we are very lucky in that people in the trust recognise the benefits of the role and are very helpful in expanding the team.
“Play specialists in accident & emergency have been there for two years and we have specialists in the intensive care unit.”
National Play in Hospital Week, which runs until Sunday, is organised by the National Association of Health Play Specialists.
It celebrates 50 years since the first hospital play worker was employed by Save the Children at Brook Hospital in London.
Jodie Henshaw, play specialist, from Witney, said: “Play workers have a childcare qualification and we do an additional play specialist course.
“Our role is to be an advocate for the children and we do a lot of support work with the children.
“We help the children understand what is going to happen to them, why, how it might feel and how it is going to help them.
“A lot of the time they cope, but they co-operate better if they know why a doctor wants to do a certain thing or why there is a funny tube coming out of their tummy.
She added: “We try to keep things as normal and as fun as possible.”