Health Play Specialist of the Year: Claire Pickett

Starlight is proud to announce Claire Pickett at University Hospital, Southampton as the 2022 Health Play Specialist of the Year!

Claire has worked on the Piam Brown Paediatric Oncology Ward for the last 12 years starting out as a nurse, but for the last 7 years she’s been working as a Health Play Specialist and making a huge difference. Claire and her colleagues regularly rely on play when working with their oncology patients. As these children can be in hospital for a long time, play helps break up their days.

We're those friendly faces that the children know are not medical. We're just there to play with them and be their friend. They can offload on us, talk about their fears, anxieties and worries about what they're going through.

Claire Pickett, Health Play Specialist

Claire and her colleagues work with a wide range of ages, anywhere from 4 months to 15-years-old, so they have to constantly be thinking about what’s appropriate for each child and tailor play and care appropriately.

This is when Starlight resources come in handy!

Claire regularly uses our Starlight Distraction Boxes, which has been affectionately nicknamed “Claire’s Box” on the ward, as it’s filled with lots of various fun activities, toys, and games. It’s particularly handy when a child is having a blood test. The Starlight Distraction Box helps Claire relax and distract the child as much as possible making the whole procedure much quicker. She’s also used the Starlight Rhino Sensory Voyager which can turn any space into a sensory room making it ideal for children with additional needs.

Claire is the glue that holds our ward together. Piam Brown is a children's cancer ward, so we see children and families in the worst times of their lives. While we as nurses are often associated with medicine and pain, Claire is associated with fun and joy.

Brien, Colleague at University Hospital Southampton

Parents and colleagues alike agree that Claire is somewhat of a confidant for the patients on her ward. Because she’s not associated with treatments or operations, Claire is seen as someone children can turn to when they’re stressed, anxious, worried, or overwhelmed about upcoming treatments.

She’s seen as a calming, caring, playful, and trusting person who can give them opportunities to play making make their time in hospital better even if she can’t heal their cancer.

Claire is one incredible play specialist, and when my daughter Sophie was diagnosed with cancer she always did her best to make Sophie feel at ease. Claire is fun, crazy, mad person who brings fun, humour and lifts children more than any medicine can. Claire's the best drug around, and we all need more people like Claire in our corner.

Charlotte, Patient's Mum

We’re so proud to name Claire as our 2022 Health Play Specialist of the Year, and we’re so thankful for all the hard work she does for the children at University Hospital at Southampton.

Visit our 2022 Play in Hospital Week hub to learn more about this year’s winners and see how else we’re celebrating.