Providing specialist play equipment for children at PRUH
Thanks to donations and the dedicated fundraising of Health Play Specialist Sian Spencer-Little, the Paediatric Ward is equipped with specialised toys to make each child’s stay in hospital a more positive one.
Sian has been a Health Play Specialist at the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) in Orpington for the last seven years, which has been part of King’s since 2013. She works as part of a multi-disciplinary team within the Paediatric Ward, which looks after children with a wide range of medical needs, who are aged anywhere from babies to 16-year-olds. The Play and Youth Team organise daily play and art activities in the ward’s bright and colourful playroom or at a child’s bedside.
Donations have already funded a range of interactive sensory toys and pop up books about the human body so that staff and parents can explain to children why they are in hospital. The money raised also helps to buy plenty of Play-Doh which is especially popular on the ward. Due to the risk of spreading infection, it usually has to be thrown away after a single use which means the play specialists constantly need to buy more.
As well as the distraction that play offers to children who are poorly or in discomfort, it has a special function in the hospital environment as a therapeutic tool for a child’s recovery or rehabilitation. Specialised toys can be crucial in helping children reach developmental goals and cope with their feelings of anxiety, especially before and after having surgery. Play can provide valuable support to families or siblings too and it can be used by medical staff to observe a child if they need to assess their development and coping strategies during treatment.
One of the key aims of the Play and Youth Team is to support a child or young person in hospital and promote a positive experience, or as much as it can be, through specialised play, talking through procedures using dolls and non-threatening medical equipment, books and appropriate visual aids.
‘We can also be with them when they have a procedure done and explain why it’s happening,’ Sian explains. ‘We are careful to use the right language so that children and young people's anxiety levels are kept to a minimum.’
While Sian is usually based at the ward, she can be called upon to support a child or young person in Paediatric A&E or to a Paediatric outpatient clinic (depending on her ward workload).
Despite being extremely busy and working full time, Sian regularly gives up her weekends and evenings to organise fundraising events for the children’s ward – from cake sales, book sales and toy sales to bucket collections in fancy dress at Bromley South station. ‘At the last collection we were there for five hours and I was dressed up as Mr Bump!’ says Sian.
One of the biggest highlights of the events organised by Sian and her colleagues over the years includes a big art exhibition, where the children and staff were encouraged to get creative by painting and drawing. ‘We displayed and sold the art work at the shopping centre in Bromley – and through this alone we raised £2,500!’ she says.
Due to the daily contact they have with the children staying on the ward, play specialists like Sian are able to build strong relationships with their families. As a result, they receive a huge amount of positive feedback about the impact they have on the children's lives. In fact, many of the parents have been so grateful for the care their children have received that they've organised their own fundraising events to say thank you. ‘It’s like a domino effect,’ says Sian. ‘They know that we don’t get a budget for play resources or specialised play equipment, so whatever is raised goes towards the Children’s Ward Fund and helps us to purchase those things.’
Sian gets lots of support from the rest of the ward in helping to raise essential funds. ‘It’s a team effort – everybody gets involved, whether it’s baking some cakes or selling some raffle tickets,’ she says. ‘I like to do a big annual event because then the funds can hopefully cover us throughout the year.’
‘Often the children don’t want to go home because they’re having such a good time!’ says Sian.
‘Ultimately it means we’re providing a fun and non-threatening clinical environment for a child. When I see the positive impact of our work and our fundraising, it makes all the madness and silliness that I create worth it.’
Fundraisers like Sian make a real difference to patients at the hospital. To fundraise for Princess Royal University Hospital, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 7848 4701.