Nurture Article | The Portland Hospital Parenting Magazine
Spring Issue 2012
Emma Sodeke, 28, is a Senior Play Specialist who has worked at the Portland Hospital for the past five years. Here she describes a typical working day.
Gaining the trust of children, from tiny babies up to surly teenagers, all of whom might be frightened and anxious about their first stay in hospital, takes a lot of skill and patience.
It is my job to make sure they understand their illness, treatment and exactly what will happen to them and why, and to encourage them to tell me what might be worrying them.
And we do that through focused, therapeutic play.
Play is a wonderful tool, it transcends all language and age barriers and is a communication tool in its own right and is crucial for me to gain a child’s trust and build their confidence.
Children can frequently vocalise their worries through play when words simply aren’t enough.
Today, I’m on the early shift, which means I arrive on the children’s ward at 7.30am to receive handover from the Senior Nurse in charge.
I then make my way to greet and introduce myself to the new admissions.
Together with our longer-stay patients, there could be as many as 35 children, aged from a few months to 16 with whom I and my two colleagues could be working with on any set day.
It can take anything from ten minutes to an hour to get a child chatting and opening up.
Parents often say older children don’t need me, but it’s the adolescents I pay careful attention to; it’s easy to assume they can cope, however, recognising their development stages and providing adequate and appropriate level of information is essential.
I am trained to read children’s behaviour and not all behaviour is verbal. A happy, confident and compliant child is going to recuperate a lot more quickly - sometimes people don’t appreciate how important the role of a play specialist is.
Today, we have a five-year-old girl who has come to the Ear Nose and Throat clinic to undergo an operation
to remove her grommets, tonsils and adenoids.
We settle down in the playroom, where there is a whole host of colouring pens, puzzles, books and games to capture her imagination, before I bring out my special teddy, who’s invaluable in demonstrating injections, anaesthetics and other procedures.
I soon work out that this little lady already understands a lot about her condition and is keen to help put a bit of ‘magic cream’ on teddy’s paw, ready for his injection to put him in a special sleep.
She also helps put on teddy’s identity tag, just like her own.
Later, as she is wheeled down to theatre, she is quite relaxed and calm, which has helped her parents through this vital time, and I know I have performed a vital role in supporting
the medical staff into whose hands she is now quite happily passed.
Next on my list is a little three-year-old boy with development needs who has come in for a tongue reduction operation.
We met two weeks ago for his assessment, and it’s nice to see that he remembers me and is comfortable having me around.
An interactive Fireman Sam game on the iPad, plus plenty of age-appropriate explanations, ensure that his blood is taken without any fuss.
His Dad is absolutely amazed – he thought we had a real battle on our hands from his previous hospital experiences – and his sense of relief is as palpable as his son’s.
Today has been another busy day. The children I didn’t get to see, I shall prioritise tomorrow and check up on all my post-operative cases.
Knowing I have helped turn a child’s stay in hospital hopefully into a positive one, is hugely rewarding.