Hotcourses talks to Hospital Play Skills Specialist Zoe Slater about the pros and cons of working in the challenging environment of childcare in hospitals…
Name: Zoe Slater
Job title: Hospital Play Specialist
Job description: I assist with the delivery of the play and recreation service for children and families in emergency care by providing support to patients and families who arrive as a result of critical illness, trauma or death. I help to prepare young patients and families for procedures like blood tests, IV drips, stitches, x-rays and scans. I help kids understand what will happen to them during their hospital stay and give them coping strategies prior to these events. It’s my job to provide children with appropriate toys and activities to promote growth and development and to educate other hospital staff, students and the community.
Q. Which qualifications route did you take?
I took a BTEC First Diploma in Caring (one year working with children, children with learning and behavioural difficulties and the elderly). I’ve also got a NNEB 2-year Diploma in Nursery Nursing and a Diploma in Hospital Play Specialism (HPS).
Q. Are you doing what you wanted to do when you first embarked on a career?
Very much so, for as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed being around children. After leaving school it seemed a natural progression to work towards becoming a nanny looking after children in the home. It enabled me to spend a year working and travelling in Australia. I would highly recommend it to everyone.
Q. What inspired you to pursue your career?
After returning from Australia, I still had the travel bug, so I decided to move to Oxford where a very good friend, who worked as a children’s nurse, suggested that I looked into becoming a hospital play specialist. The thing that inspired me the most was the diversity of the role. I loved the idea of helping to support children during times of stress. Nannying was no longer challenging for me, so I arranged to spend the day with a play specialist and the rest is history!
Q. What tips could you give to someone who is interested in getting a job in your profession?
You will need to have at least three years of childcare experience. I would recommend that you seek work experience and volunteer at a local hospital
under the supervision of a qualified HPS, to see whether you are suited to this career.
Q. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you at work?
I prepared a child who was deaf for an operation using sign language and non-verbal gestures when staff thought it wasn’t possible. I loved proving people wrong and I was proud that I had developed some new skills.
Q. Describe a typical day in your working life
9.30am My shift begins with patient handover from nursing staff
9.40am I make sure all patients have the correct play equipment and liaise with other play specialists
10.30am Infection control, set up hospital areas for the day, distribute alternative focus resources (for use in distracting children undergoing invasive procedures). Begin basic programming with inpatients and assist with clinical interventions. Chart in-patient notes and number of children seen throughout day 1pm Handover from nursing staff, meet new children who have come into the department, assist in any clinical interventions 5pm Patient check 5.30pm Complete patient charts, tidy away resources, infection control, handover and resource patients, reset for night shift.
Q. What is the environment you work in like?
Child friendly, unpredictable and manic at times! I love my co-workers and although we cope with lots of screaming babies, we still have good fun.
Q. What is the hardest thing about your job?
It can be extremely stressful, particularly when there is only one of us in the department. Sometimes you rush from one procedure to the next and rarely have a break when you’re busy. The worst thing about the job is that children die – that is the hardest thing to handle, especially when you’ve built up a relationship with them.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
The interaction with kids and families – I really enjoy coming to work each day. It’s allowed me to travel and work abroad – I live in Auckland now and I’m just about to get married.
Q. Do you have any advice for school leavers who might be thinking of working in your field?
I strongly advise getting a vocational qualification and getting work experience in a children’s hospital.
Q. What is the salary range in your profession?
Salaries vary, but wages can go up to 30k a year.
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