Play in Hospital at Epsom and St Helier
Staying at a hospital has the potential to be an especially challenging and stressful time for children. Therefore, we think it's important that children staying at our hospitals are given the opportunity to step away from the day-to-day routine of their treatment and have some fun.
Play in hospital is an important part of a child's stay with us. Through play, children can enjoy themselves, which can lead to them to becoming more relaxed, which can help them during their medical treatments and procedures, as children who are relaxed and happy are easier to treat than children who are distressed and unhappy. Play can also act as a great distraction during blood tests, scans and other medical procedures.
Play in hospital can also help to reassure families as well as children. If your child is staying at hospital, there are likely going to be a lot of concerns on your mind, so seeing your child playing and enjoying themselves whilst they are with us can help to relieve some of the worries about your child's wellbeing.
Please note: whilst are very grateful to those who wish to donate toys to the hospital, we often cannot use pre-owned toys due to health and safety and infection control risks. We recommend contacting the ward before donating anything to them.
We have a number of ways that we support our child inpatients during their stay with us:
Alfie and Oak, the PAT dogs
Casey Ward (the Paediatric Ward at Epsom) have two very special canine assitants - Alfie and Oak are our resident PAT (Pets As Therapy) dogs, Alfie the golden retreiver visits us on Mondays, and Oak the labrador visits us on Thursdays. During their visit, the children have the opportunity to play with their furry companions (should they wish to), and if they are too unwell to leave their beds, the dogs will come and visit the children in their rooms, which can come as a nice surprise, and a welcome distraction from hospital life.
The Starlight Children's Foundation are a charity who focus on improiving the lives of children with serious conditions, in our case, by coming into our hospitals as the superhero 'Captain Starlight'! Captain Starlight ‘performers’ are professionally trained to connect with children by playing games, telling jokes, getting hands-on with arts and crafts, performing magic tricks and lots more to help children through their treatment. The Captains work in pairs and can spend time with children at their bedside or entertain them in a playroom or communal area.
Last year, we installed a brand new sensory room at Queens Mary's Hospital for children at St Helier. The room is designed with children on the autistic spectrum in mind, but it is open for all the children to use as they wish. The room uses light, sound and texture to help create an environment where the children can relax; away from the busy, more clinical setting of our unit. This room can help to stop our patients from becoming overstimulated and distressed in our normal hospital environment (which would make it much harder for our medical practitioners to treat them). This room therefore has great benefits from a treatment standpoint, as having our patients relaxed makes treatment much easier and faster. This means that our patients stay with us for less time, and that procedures are more straightforward for our medical staff.
Play In Hospital Week
Play in Hospital week is a national event to help raise awareness of the significance of play in hospital. This year it took place between 9-13 October and involved a variety of fun and interesting events, activities and entertainers for the children in Queen Mary’s and Woodland Nursery, St Helier Hospital.
As well as organising for groups to come in, and arranging official events and visits for the children, much of the play that takes place in our hospitals is done ad-hoc, taking into account the individual needs of the patient. We also have facilities available to us such as Sensory Rooms, which are proven to be very effective at helping to calm and distract patients with autism. Some of our ad-hoc events include a visit from the UK garrison, who came in dressed up as Star Wars villians, Fizzpop Science, who show kids how to make slime, and do other fun experiments, and teddy/doll hospitals, where children can bring in their own toys play doctor to bandage them up (our Play Specialists even make sure that they can have some real bandages, to make things that little bit more authentic).