Hospital play specialist
Sharon Luque and patient Black Tulloch
You’ll usually see me visiting most wards around Taranaki Base Hospital, and mainly on the Children and Young People’s Ward 2B. My role is to support children, young people and their whānau to cope with hospitalisation by minimising associated stress and anxiety. This involves building coping strategies and creating opportunities for participating in their health care. I use ‘Play’ as a medium to achieve this outcome and to create ongoing learning opportunities.
Working in a hospital setting requires a unique set of skills. It’s about working alongside children, young people and their families as well as a multidisciplinary team which includes Allied Health, nursing and medical professionals. Play specialists must be flexible and adaptable in their work as we take a very individualised approach to support children and their whānau in the hospital.
Hospital play specialists may be found in the playroom engaged in building a castle of blocks or checking a dolls blood pressure. We also work at the bedside creating opportunities for play and learning for those who are restricted to their rooms. We are a listening ear for whānau negotiating the challenges of having a child in hospital. We provide support for the child, whānau and the nursing team in the treatment room PAU, where we work to minimise anxiety, stress and the pain related to procedures and interventions. I go to theatre and prepare the children for their surgery so they know what to expect. I also get called to the adult wards to support patients who have been in hospital for a long time.
Tell us about your team
You will find me mostly on ward 2b but I do travel round to all areas. I love how I’m well supported not just by the hospital staff but also by outside the organisation that provides me with lots of resources that assist in my job – Gabby Starlit Hope, Little Fighters Trust, Mellowpuff Charitable Trust and many more. I can’t do my job without them.
Are you working on any special projects?
I want to set up visual clips of children having procedures that other children can see on the TDHB website before they attend any appointments, so they’re fully informed and can see what’s expected.
How did you get to this point in your career?
I trained as an Early Childhood teacher in the UK many years ago and when I arrived in New Zealand 15 years ago I worked as a Karatane for Plunket. Then I was lucky enough to move to new Plymouth with my family and get this fantastic position.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Seeing the children leave hospital with a smile on their faces. And wanting to come back. Knowing, that I have done my job well, not only for the child but for their whānau too.
What inspires you to keep doing your work?
The children and the supportive staff around me. It’s a challenging and rewarding role where no two days are ever the same.
Any big plans?
The biggest thing would be to continue with what I’m doing, being able to make the hospital visit for these patients as happy as possible and making sure their experience is as good as it can be.
Check out Sharon’s presentation about being a Hospital Play Specialist at Taranaki DHB here (PDF 1.8KB)
Last updated: Friday, March 5, 2021