- Use play to help children overcome health issues and cope with being in hospital
- Rewarding work where you'll see the impact of bringing young ones happiness and joy
- Progression routes into management or into training programmes for other health professions
As a health play specialist, you'll use play to prepare children for treatment, distract them during a procedure, and help them understand what they've experienced.
You may also use play activities with children to welcome them and help them settle in, help them reach developmental goals, encourage them to carry on their usual hobbies and interests during their hospital stay, help them make friends with each other on the ward, and help them learn new skills and regain skills they've lost as a result of their illness.
- Carrying out therapeutic assessments
- Designing play activities to meet children's individual needs
- Planning and running play, art and craft activities at the bedside, on the ward or in a hospital play area
- Creating an environment that encourages play
- Talking to parents or carers about the value of play
- Suggesting suitable activities
- Organising parties and other special events
You could work in an NHS or private hospital, and you may need to wear a uniform.
To be a health play specialist, you'll need the ability to build relationships with children, their parents and carers, counselling skills, knowledge of psychology, customer service skills, sensitivity and understanding, the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure, and to understand people's reactions.
You'll need to get a foundation degree in a healthcare play specialism to register with the Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust. To get onto this 2-year, part-time course, you would usually need a childcare qualification, GCSEs or equivalent in English and maths, and at least 2 years' experience of working with children (either paid or voluntary).
You may also be able to do a health play specialist higher apprenticeship, for which you'll need some experience of working with children in a childcare or healthcare setting.
You could start as a play assistant with a relevant childcare qualification and work your way up by training on the job.
Many health play specialists have a background in nursery work. You may also do this job with experience and qualifications in related areas, like community play, nursing, occupational therapy, social work, teaching, art, drama or music therapy.
You could go on to work outside of a hospital setting, for example in a child development centre, hospice, or within a community paediatric team.
With experience, you could progress to team leader or team manager. You could also apply to train as a healthcare professional, like a nurse or occupational therapist.