Play Therapist team expanded

Children receiving treatment in the Hospital’s Medical Day Unit (MDU) and Renal Dialysis Unit (RDU) now have support from a Play Therapist for the very first time.

In mid-2019, Jessica joined the Play Therapy team with her position funded by the Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation.

When the redeveloped MDU and RDU was unveiled late last year, it was perfect timing for the Foundation to fund a Play Therapist to work in the space and expand the support we provide in the Hospital through our world class Arts in Health program.

The key role of Jessica and the 10 other Play Therapists in the WCH is to use play and creative arts to minimise the anxiety and stress experienced by patients.

As part of the celebrations of Play Therapy Week (October 14-18) Jessica has shared the impact of her work.

“In any one day I could work with 15 -20 patients, from newborns to 18-year-olds,” Jessica said.

“Some of the children in the units are in a chair for up to seven hours receiving treatment, while some have to receive several injections a day. Most of these children come into the Hospital regularly; their treatment plan could see them spend a day in the unit once a fortnight or once a month. A lot of them are going through long-term health struggles.

“For many children there is a lot of fear about being in Hospital, because of the treatment, having operations and the unfamiliarity of the adults treating them. It is important that our Hospital environment is child-centered and there are activities to keep their spirits up. We know children need play and through play I help to alleviate their stress and fear.”

WCH patient Rushi with MDU and RDU Play Therapist Jessica.

WCH patient Rushi with MDU and RDU Play Therapist Jessica.

Examples of activities Jessica utilises include sensory play, sand trays filled with dinosaurs or simply placing a teddy bear on the patient’s chair so when they first arrive there is something to hug.

“With older children I provide encouragement, for instance I say, ‘after this treatment, we have something fun planned’, so they are aware there is something to look forward to,” she said.

“My role is very rewarding as you are working with children who are going through really challenging times. I focus on providing distraction, comfort and making the Hospital a fun place,” Jessica said.

WCH Play Therapist Jessica and WCH patient Rushi engage in activities.

Rushi’s mum Aditi said that Play Therapy distracts her son while he receives treatment. 

Four-year-old Rushi is just one patient who has benefited from Play Therapy and working with Jessica.

Rushi attends MDU every 15 days for infusion therapy, after his kidneys failed in October last year.

“In October last year Rushi was in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for over 20 days,” Rushi’s mum, Aditi said.

“His current treatment means he has to sit in a chair for one and a half hours to receive medication. He is an active boy and hardly wants to sit still and be in one place! But when Jessica organises activities, Rushi is happy to sit and play.

“Along with the activities distracting him, Rushi’s speech has improved from spending time with the Play Therapists as they have taught him words.

“Rushi loves coming to the Hospital now and that makes me happy, as the medical treatment he is getting is so important.”

Since 2011, the Foundation’s Arts in Health program has funded the Play Therapy service at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Our support extends to providing resources, such as arts, crafts, books and toys, for the Play Therapists to use in activities with patients.

Thanks to our generous supporters, the WCH Foundation has expanded the Hospital’s Play Therapy team over the years with 11 Play Therapists now employed and working with hundreds of children every week.

To learn more about Play Therapy click here

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