Health Play Specialist of the Year: Julie Morris

Starlight is proud to announce this year’s Health Play Specialist of the Year is Julie Morris at Kingston Hospital.

Julie has only been fully qualified as a Play Specialist for a year, but has already left a huge impression amongst her colleagues as someone who goes above and beyond to improve the experiences of children and young people through play at Kingston Hospital.

Julie covers a range of wards and departments from inpatients, accident and emergency, outpatients, day surgery and the oncology patients. She uses play and distraction therapy to help the children prepare for theatre, scans, blood tests and many more interventions, which are often scary and confusing for the children.

Ritu, the Mum of Shri, one of Julie’s patients, says, “Julie is very fun loving and always laughing, smiling and happy. I think that helps with the treatments as well, [and] it helps [Shri] get through it all. Julie also takes her off my hands for a little while. It is 24/7, so just having a bit of a breather makes a big difference to me.”

Julie has also been instrumental in revitalising the paediatric garden since plans to renovate the area were put on hold when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. Previously, the garden was outdated and not inclusive for all paediatric patients such as new-born babies, teenagers and special needs children.

Julie has spearheaded a new plan that will create a garden that is accessible for all patients, no matter their personal needs, and will provide a space for parents and children to relax. Babies will be able to freely crawl around the space, special needs children can enjoy a sensory experience outdoor, and those who wish can help plant produce such as tomatoes, sunflowers, cucumbers and many other sensory plants.

Julie’s efforts to provide gardening projects for the children has recently won the team a Royal Horticultural Society Award. The children greatly enjoyed the project, and Julie plans to continue offering various gardening projects for each new season as ways to distract and entertain the children.

Julie works tirelessly to ensure each and every child and young person receives the best possible support during their stay in hospital or throughout their treatment. She’s calm, compassionate and caring and makes the child feel at ease - as well as the parent - and is loved so dearly by all our regular oncology patients too!

Nominator Gary Broadway (Play Assistant at Kingston)

Starlight has provided Julie and the Kingston Play Team with resources like Nintendo Switch consoles, stress balls and fidget toys, and distraction boxes full of card games and arts and crafts.

These extra activities have been especially important whilst Covid-19 has restricted other areas of play and increased the number of patients with mental health problems.

With the help of resources provided by Starlight, Julie has been able to support these children and their parents through their treatments and provide opportunities of distraction and play.

The recognition isn't just for me, it's for the team – we all work together. We have an amazing team who always work so hard for the children, everyone is in it together.

Julie Morris