Health play specialists

health play specialist title

The role of the health play specialist

Health play specialists are registered healthcare professionals who use play as a tool to support children and young people who are in patients or out patients in hospitals, hospices and other community settings. They use play to make the children feel safe and in control, using preparation, distraction and post-procedural play techniques.

Preparing your child

Preparing a child is a vital part of their journey. It is important for us to be truthful with them as we are helping the child express their voice so it is heard. Preparation varies but some forms of preparation are:  

  • Coming into the hospital for a play session ahead of your scheduled  appointment
  • Talking through the processes of what will happen 
  • Using toys and art and craft to re-create a room i.e. the anaesthetic  room

All of these exercises aim to make the child comfortable in a hospital environment.

  distraction balls

What is distraction?distraction toys

The aim of distraction is to take the child’s mind off what is happening; doing this can help provide a better hospital experience for the child. The technique of distraction used depends on the child’s stage of development, particular needs, and the procedure/treatment they are going to have. 

Some techniques we may use are: 

  • Watching a favourite television programme or reading a book 
  •  Blowing bubbles 
  •  Playing an iPad game 
  •  Relieving tension by using a stress ball and focusing on pictures

Post-procedural play 

Post-procedural play gives the child an opportunity to express themselves freely. Discussing post procedural playhow they found a procedure or treatment helps children work through fears or concerns and form ways of coping for future treatments. Play specialists offer these opportunities through different types of play. 

Other types of play we offer are:

  •  Diagnostic play - this helps us understand the child and their   families’ fears and understanding relating to their illness or  treatments. It can also mean to help the doctors in assessing the  child
  •  Bereavement play - this allows children to express fears and emotions relating to the end of treatment
  •  Sibling play - this allows the child to feel involved in the journey  and  gives them a chance to ask questions and express their feelings

If you feel your child could benefit from any of these therapeutic play tools please ask your doctor or nurse for a play specialist to be included in their journey. Alternatively please email us directly on:

Get connected

  • Like us on Facebook 
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Follow us on LinkedIn 
  • Reviews on NHS Choices
  • Watch our videos


  • Like us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter 
  • Follow us on LinkedIn
  • Review on NHS Choices
  • Watch our videos

NHS image placement

Healthy Workplace Achievement Award 2016 NHS Choices