Here's why play should be a non-negotiable in children's healthcare

We spoke to Lucy, a Starlight-funded health play specialist, about how play supports her patients and why it should be a non-negotiable in children’s healthcare…

Often in the NHS, a child’s emotional needs can be overlooked because the focus is predominately on treating the medical symptoms. Supporting the child or young person’s emotional needs during a time when they’re feeling vulnerable is so important, and I get to play a part in supporting medical teams to care for the whole person, not just their symptoms.

One way I do this is by supporting children and young people to create a coping plan for their medical procedure. 

There may not be a choice over whether they have the procedure or not, but they may be able to have control over some parts of the procedure, such as what pain relief they would prefer or choice of distraction.

I ensure their choices are then shared with their medical teams, which supports the child or young person to be an active participant in their health care experience. 

Stress and pain from medical procedures can create significant short and long-term consequences for children, including healthcare avoidance and the development of fears around needles. 

Listening to a child’s preferences and needs can empower the child to cope and reduce distress.

Every day is different in my job, as every patient and family I work with is different. What may help one child, may not help another, so my role involves adapting my work to meet the needs of the individual service users. I love my job and feel really privileged to work with such wonderful children and families.