Sharon Justice, play specialist
Sharon Justice is a play specialist on the children’s day care ward at University Hospital Lewisham
“I joined the Trust in 1994 as a play worker, and qualified as a play specialist in 2002.
“It’s my role to act as the child’s advocate, ensuring they understand and are comfortable with everything that is happening to them while they are in hospital. I use a lot of distraction techniques, such as telling a story while a child is having blood taken, or encouraging them to play with their favourite toy while they are being prepped for surgery. It is important to explain things in a language the child understands while still remaining open and honest about their treatment.
“On the ward, I play with the children or sit with them while they talk through their worries. I attend clinics with them and help explain complicated information that the doctor or nurse is giving them. I also organise daily activities on the ward, such as art classes and cooking lessons, and organise events keep the children entertained. We make sure we celebrate every child’s birthday, and have entertainers such as magicians every month.
“The doctors sometimes refer a child for a home visit from me. This could be because the child has a phobia about a hospital procedure, such as a blood test, or is frightened of the hospital itself. My job is to help the child understand the procedure – I will let them play with the equipment under my supervision (minus any needles!) and they can ask me any question they want. I may give a demonstration of how the nurse will take their blood, for example, and I try to make this as realistic as possible so the child knows I am not trying to hide anything.”
If you would like to find out more about the role of a hospital play specialist, visit http://nahps.org.uk/