Health play staff
Health play staff lead play activities with children and young people who are in hospital or attending a hospital or clinic.
This page has information on the role of a health play staff in the NHS, including entry requirements and skills needed.
As a member of health/healthcare play staff, you'll use play as a therapeutic tool to help children understand their illness and treatment.
You could work as a play assistant or a health play specialist (previously known as a hospital play specialist)
Depending on your role and level of responsibility, you would
- organise daily play and art activities in the playroom or at the bedside
- use play to maintain a child’s level of development during illness
- help children deal with their anxieties and feelings
- use play to prepare children for hospital procedures
- support parents and families
- observe children while playing to help healthcare staff monitor their progress
- encourage peer group friendships
- organise parties and special events
Where would I work?
Most health play staff work in hospitals, either in outpatient or inpatient departments. Some work in hospices and other community-based settings. Some health play specialists work with children in their homes.
You could enter a role as a play assistant with a relevant childcare qualification at level 3. Experience of working with children will be an advantage.
Most employers expect health play specialists to be registered with the Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust. To register, you need a foundation degree in healthcare play specialism. This is a two-year part-time course. To get onto the course, you usually need
- a childcare qualification at level 3 or above
- GCSEs (or equivalent) in maths and English
- at least two years' experience of working with children (paid or voluntary)
Courses are a mix of practical work and theory. If you are not already working in healthcare play, you need to arrange a placement during the course.
Personal characteristics and skills needed
Health play specialists need to be
- interested in working with children
- imaginative and fun
- caring and kind
- approachable and reassuring
- able to deal with other people’s emotions (both children and adults)
- willing to work with parents and carers
- health and safety conscious
- aware of child protection and safeguarding
You'll also need
- excellent communication skills, including listening, with adults and children
- good organisational skills
- good observational skills
Training and development
Play specialists who are registered with the Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.
Play specialists can join the National Association of Health Play Specialists. The Association runs conferences and training events so members can keep their skills up to date and network with others in the same field.
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Most staff working in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. As a play assistant, you will typically be on AfC band 3. As a health play specialist, you will be on band 4 or 5 (as a senior health play specialist) and with further training and experience, you could apply for more senior positions.
Health play staff in the NHS work standard hours of around 37.5 a week.
Terms and conditions will usually be different for health play staff working outside of the NHS.
- Where the role could lead Expand / Collapse
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The National Association of Health Play Specialists has job vacancies on its website.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
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