Recently, I dipped back into the 1970s archives and looked at early work on play for children in hospital. Information unearthed was about the importance of play, the role of play workers/leaders and why play workers needed to be established as a paid profession as well as allocation of space for play. Silvia Nash outlined a 1970s view of the role of play workers who have a primary concern for the emotional needs and development of the child. The play worker helps and encourages parents and families to support and participate in the care of their child acting as a buffer. Play workers explain treatments to children to fit their understanding and support nursing and medical staff. In the UK, the National Association of Hospital Play Staff has documented milestones celebrating 50 years of work.
In Canada and North America child life programs were designed to meet the social, emotional and physical activity needs of children in hospital and to help children and their parents adjust and cope with illness. Hospitalized children need the continuing presence of someone important to them, as well as a rich and stimulating environment and opportunities for exploratory behaviour and play. The Child Life Council has produced a timeline and history of the profession.
In 1976 AWCH held a seminar Play in Hospital, a first in Australia. AWCH was instrumental in bringing together a wide range of people, making recommendations for unified guidelines and including roles and training. AWCH went on to write a Policy relating to the provision of play for children in hospitals in 1986.
A new beginning for the profession in Australia took place in 2015. The evolution of the hospital play profession in Australia was celebrated during Child Life Therapy week including the launch of a new name and website. Look to the Association of Child Life Therapists Australia as the peak body of health care professionals specialising in child development, who utilize their knowledge and skills to work with children in the hospital…. ACLTA has produced a short history of hospital play in Australia.
Early days and resources at the AWCH Child Health Library
AWCH Child Health Library holds foundational resources including:
- Working with children in hospital by Emma Plank, referred to as the mother of the profession
- Child life: an overview & Child life activities: an overview published by ACCH
- The under fives in hospital: a report on their emotional well-being published by AWCH
- Hospital: a deprived environment for children? : The case for hospital play schemes, by Save the Children
- To help prepare children for hospital, the 1972 Paul in hospital, shows photos of a child in an oxygen tent
Important resources that identify the needs of children in hospital
- Platt report, which includes information on the importance of play
- A two year old goes to hospital, DVD
- Marking the 50th anniversary of the Platt Report: from exclusion, to toleration and parental participation in the care of the hospitalized child.
Recent resources available for loan include:
- In sickness and in play: children coping with chronic illness
- Therapeutic activities for children and teens coping with health issues
- Richard Thompson’s Handbook of child life and the Child Life Council bulletin
Related resources can be borrowed on preparation for hospital, relaxation, mindfulness, coping with grief and living with serious illness.