“I get to play every day with the most amazing children. There was a boy in the playroom the other day. It took 20 minutes before he began talking – and when he started he didn’t stop. He told me a lot about his needle phobia.

“My job is to create a safe space where they can play and where they’re more comfortable to express themselves. And out of nowhere, they’ll start a conversation – about the medicine they had to take that morning and didn’t like, or that the doctor did surgery on their legs.”

Play is vital. Play makes a hospital a little more fun and a lot less scary.

Play is a powerful tool and great for helping children express themselves and use their imagination.

“It works on their cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing. We use play to motivate those not yet up-and-moving post-surgery to use their motor skills. The physiotherapist will often link in with me to help get children back into their physio programme. This can be done really powerfully through play.”

Children referred to the play specialist often need extra support around preparation for – and distraction from – medical procedures, for example, blood tests, ultrasounds etc.

Using play helps reduce anxiety. It can give children a sense of control and autonomy.

“This can be taken from them in a medical setting, where they feel people are ‘doing things’ to them. When they have an opportunity to play, you can really see them empowered again.”

Play specialist Rachel Griffin with the MRI simulator – built by a grateful parent – in the children’s ward in CUH. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

For example, an MRI can seem very scary and play can make it easier.

The father of a patient made an MRI Simulator, which has massively helped patients, giving them a gradual introduction to what an actual MRI will be like but in a safe, playful way.

“I put it on the child’s bed. The child gets to lie on the bed and I push it over them as if they were sliding into the actual machine. So they get the experience of being in a small confined space and the sounds are playing.”

“There’s a lot of banging and clanking and knocking. To make these sounds less frightening, I get children to relate them to things of interest. One child loves Sonic the Hedgehog so he related the sounds to Dr Robotnik’s machine gun.”

Thank you Rachel for all you do!