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Published Friday 10 Mar 2017

Going to hospital can be scary for anyone, especially children, but an initiative at the Hutt Valley DHB is aimed at demystifying the hospital experience for young kids.

Lower Hutt resident, Arthur McCabe, learns about the body while Hospital play specialist Maria Eneliko looks on.

Hospital play specialists based at the Hutt Hospital focus on using play to help children through procedures, such as collecting blood, changing dressings or having other procedures done.

“We really want to help kids settle into what is a totally new and strange environment. By using play to explain what is going to happen and what to expect, we can take the fear out of coming to hospital,” explains Hospital Play Specialist, Tania Pitama.

“We explain what X-rays are, what the equipment is used for, what the different parts of the body are and through play, we help the child process what is happening and why.”

The hospital runs two play sessions a day in a play room and if a child is too unwell to attend those, they take the play to the child’s room.

“We find out what their interests are by speaking to their parents and then we formulate a plan for each child,” Tania adds.

The sessions are also open for the siblings of children in hospital to join in too.

“It isn’t just about helping them through the experience, it is also about making sure that while they are in hospital, they are still learning and playing and being children,” says Tania.

“The best feedback we get is from parents who say that their child remembers the fun they had through play while they were at hospital. We want them to remember that, rather than the trauma of procedures or treatment.”

This week, hospital play specialists all over the country celebrated the importance of play in hospital by reaching out to the community. The Hutt Valley DHB invited play centres in the Hutt to come and visit the hospital.

Children were able to play with stethoscopes and other common equipment they might see doctors use, learn about X-rays, body parts and ask questions.