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Byline: Sophie Cross

A TRIP to hospital can be a frightening experience for young children - but thankfully there are always some friendly faces on hand to make them smile again.

Armed with bubbles, balloons and picture books, Theresa Hull and her team of fellow play specialists strive to "normalise an abnormal environment" for the thousands of youngsters they see come into Good Hope Hospital, in Sutton Coldfield, for treatment each year.

The women are among play specialists across Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust - and the country - whose role is being recognised during this week's Play In Hospital Week.

Theresa has worked at Good Hope's children's ward for more than 20 years and became its first play specialist four years ago, working with children aged up to 16.

She said: "We help children adjust to being in hospital, to distract them when enduring medical procedures or having dressings done, which can sometimes be painful. We also help the physiotherapists.

"We have a lovely play room with things like lego and painting. Play makes children relaxed and it also gives the chance for us to explain to them, on their level, about the kind of things that are going to happen."

Theresa works closely with the play team based in the hospital's accident and emergency department, making the transition as smooth as possible for young patients. She explained: "If a child comes into A&E it's usually through a trauma which was unexpected so they are frightened. The A&E play specialists will help distract them and when they come over to the children's ward they tell us all about what they enjoy.

"It makes the experience more reassuring for the kids, after they have seen all these scary machines and lots of different people coming and going."

Organised through the National Association of Hospital Play Staff It is hoped Play In Hospital Week will raise awareness of assistance offered in local hospitals as well as attract more people into the profession.

Theresa added: "I love the job. It's extremely satisfying and rewarding working with the children."

See for further details.


Relaxed: Theresa Hull, a play specialist at Good Hope, with Ellie Williams, from Tamworth. Play: A&E nursey nurse Avril Hodgkins and Babita Gurcha.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 21, 2010
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