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Health play specialist Hospital play specialist

Health play specialists use their understanding of child development and therapeutic play activities to help children cope during their time in hospital.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £19,250 to £28,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need:

To do the foundation degree, you’ll need:

  • a professional childcare qualification at level 3 or above
  • 2 years' post qualifying work experience in a childcare setting
  • GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in maths and English, or equivalent
  • to be working or volunteering in a healthcare setting

You’ll also need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

HPSET has more information about becoming a health play specialist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to build relationships with children, their parents and carers
  • excellent communication skills
  • creative ability
  • organisational skills for planning and running therapeutic activities

3. What you'll do

You’ll use play to prepare children for treatment, distract them during a procedure, and help them understand what they’ve experienced. 

You may also use play activities with children to:

  • welcome them and help them settle in
  • help them reach developmental goals
  • encourage them to carry on their usual hobbies and interests during their hospital stay
  • help them make friends with each other on the ward
  • help them learn new skills and regain skills they’ve lost as a result of their illness

Your day-to-day tasks might also involve:

  • carrying out therapeutic assessments
  • designing play activities to meet children's individual needs
  • planning and running play, art and craft activities at the bedside, on the ward or in a hospital play area
  • creating an environment that encourages play
  • talking to parents or carers about the value of play and suggesting suitable activities
  • organising parties and other special events

You’ll observe children during play and share your findings with other professionals involved in their treatment, like doctors, nurses, speech therapists and psychologists.

4. Salary

Starter: £19,250 to £22,500

Experienced: £22,000 to £28,500

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37.5 hours a week, which may include weekends.

You’ll usually be based at a children's hospital, which could involve being part of a large play department.  

You might also work on a ward or department in a general hospital where children are admitted. Here you’re likely to work in smaller teams in outpatient clinics, children’s units and adolescent wards.

6. Career path and progression

You could go on to work outside of a hospital setting, for example in a child development centre, hospice, or within a community paediatric team.

With experience, you could progress to team leader or team manager.

You could also apply to train as a healthcare professional, like a nurse or occupational therapist.

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Last updated: 13 September 2017