Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust

"Seeing a child smile after spending time with them makes me smile too.”

Jade Allard, gives us a taste of life as a nursery nurse on C2 and explains the importance of play to patients there…

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


"Hello. My name is Jade and I am a nursery nurse that works in the ward C2, Oncology and haematology 0-16 years.

I just want you to take a couple of minutes and think about how you felt when you had your first exam at school, went on a first date, took a driving test, got married, had your first baby or waited for medical test results. Well, this is how our children feel every day when they are admitted onto the ward, waiting for a diagnosis or waiting to see if their treatment has worked and if their diagnoses can be treated.

This is why play is so important within their daily routine. It is play that will keep them grounded during their most difficult times; helping them to communicate and release frustration in a safe and secure environment.

Play creates an environment where stress and anxiety are reduced helping the child to regain confidence and self-esteem. It also provides an outlet for feelings of anger and frustration and speeds recovery and rehabilitation.

Sessions help build self-confidence
Providing one-to-one or group sessions allows the children to socialise with other children that are going through similar experiences, which builds their self-confidence, letting them know they are not alone. Also play sessions help develop trust and builds relationships between the child and their families. So, when parents need some time out, they are then happy to leave their child in my care.

For example: I built a special bond and friendship with a palliative patient and supported them through daily play. I kept them company while parents had meetings with doctors, hearing some of the hardest things they will ever hear. Knowing their child was with someone they knew and liked meant that the parents could focus on the information being given without the extra stress of worrying if they were ok. The parents were then able to take short coffee breaks and get some fresh air, which is very much needed.

Children can be on their own through the day as their parents may have to go to work or have other children to look after at home. I prioritise my time to be with that child where possible. However, when I’m the only member of the play team on duty, I also have 16 other children to see. When there are two play team members on duty we can split the time with the child who is alone while the other person sees to all the other children. Sometimes we even join each other in a big play session with families and children.

Forgetting worries through play
A teenage patient was having a really hard time and fed up with being in hospital. As there were three play team staff on duty, we all joined together and played a big game of Uno. By joining in this activity and having fun, the teenager had forgotten about her worries.

When a child is admitted with a critical illness, their development may be delayed by long admissions, treatment and interventions. This is why my role is so important, to support each child to maintain their age and stage of development and to reduce the level of developmental delay when discharged. 

Play is a safe and familiar activity for children and families. It helps us to develop strong, professional working relationships with parents, giving them confidence to confide in us so that we can refer them to the appropriate support they need at the time regarding treatment or palliative care.

The ‘p’ word
Some people think play is only aimed at young children and sometimes asking our older teens if they want to play does sound a bit patronising. I just change the word ‘play’ to ‘activities’ and they are usually really keen to then have something to do. Even adults still play, some of you will play on the PlayStation and play games at Christmas.

I change how I approach older children, building the relationship first to get to know them and assessing their stage of development, likes and dislikes so I can be there to support them at one of the hardest times of their lives. Older children also get anxious, especially at this stage of their development where body image and peer friendships are very important. For those children having chemotherapy, how they look can be a big issue especially with regard to hair loss. If I have built that relationship with the young person I can boost their confidence by telling them they look amazing, providing a pamper session or taking their mind of it for a while and playing a game. Seeing a child smile after spending time with them makes me smile too.” 

ACT has funded Jade's post for 12 months and is currently trying to secure funding to ensure that positions like hers continue to help patients at Addenbrooke's. Click here to see other things we've recently funded.


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