Play time for kids in A&E

Date: 28 July 2017

Play Specialist

Pictured: Shannon, one of our young patients, and Amy Osborn, Health Play Specialist in our Paediatric Emergency Department


For children in particular, coming to hospital can be a distressing experience – but it doesn’t have to be. One of the Trust’s newest employees, Health Play Specialist Amy Osborn, is now working in the Trust’s paediatric A&E to improve children’s care and make their experience more positive.

“When a child comes to A&E, there is often a lot of fear of the unknown” she explains. “They might be anxious or frightened about what has happened to them or what is going to happen in hospital.

“A large part of my role is to build trust with the patient and their family. I chat with them and find common ground. When you find out what a young person is interested in – a hobby, music, a recent birthday – and make that connection, you’ll see them change and become calmer. They’ll relax and their parents will relax too.”

Building that rapport can make a huge difference to everyone’s experience. A more relaxed young patient will have a better experience and A&E staff can provide better care, as children are more able to communicate about their condition and are more willing to receive treatment.

Amy’s 17 years of experience at two of the country’s leading children’s hospitals – Great Ormond Street and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital – has given her extensive experience of some of the best ways to communicate effectively with children.

“One of the most effective tools that I use is photos of me on an iPad, undergoing simple medical procedures – having a cut treated, having a blood sample taken, having a plaster cast put on” Amy explains. “They understand more about what to expect, can see in the photos that I am calm and so we can talk about their feelings and help them feel more positive about being treated”.

As well as calming young people before they see clinical staff, Amy helps clinicians during treatment with ‘distraction therapy’. By keeping a child’s attention occupied when they are having an uncomfortable procedure, clinicians can work more quickly and sometimes even undertake procedures that would normally need a general anaesthetic.

So what part of the job does she enjoy the most? “When they go home happy” Amy replies. “When they leave with their heads held high because you’ve given them the confidence to go ahead with a procedure they’d been frightened about. You know you’ve made a real difference to their experience.”

Young patients will be able to meet Amy Monday to Friday (and occasionally at weekends) at our paediatric A&E at Medway Maritime Hospital.

  • Summary:

    For children in particular, coming to hospital can be a distressing experience – but it doesn’t have to be. One of the Trust’s newest employees, Health Play Specialist Amy Osborn, is now working in the Trust’s paediatric A&E to improve children’s care and make their experience more positive.