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In this essay, I will be discussing how play can help ease
the anxieties and difficulties young children and their families face during
the child’s time in hospital, incorporating how play can help with the
development of young children and how nurses use play to support the rights of
a child in the hospital setting. Statics from the National Health Service (2013)
show that 9.4 million children aged 0-19 were attendances at Outpatient
Services in the UK during 2013 and as many as 4.8 million children attended
Accident and Emergency, which is over an 5% increase from previous years (Digital.nhs.uk.
(2013)). This statistic shows the mass number of children that spend time in
hospital, which could both be long stay or short stay. Play is important in the
clinical environment as it allows children to develop intellectually, socially,
physically, emotionally and helps them to develop mental health resilience,
which becomes important throughout the adolescence years, while at the same
time helping the child to understand treatments and procedures they may face
while being at hospital.

Throughout history many professionals have found it difficult
to define the meaning of play as it is unique to every child and individual and
can be conveyed in a vary of ways. (Gilman, MC., Frauman, AC. (1987)). Play
Therapy United Kingdom defines play as: ‘A physical or mental leisure activity
that is undertaken purely for enjoyment or amusement and has no other
objective.’ Nevertheless, play occurs everywhere for children as it is a
natural component of every child’s life. Despite play being enjoyable and fun
for children, its recognised to be vital for growth and development. Play
allows a child to use their imagination and be adventurous and creative, play
is also unstructured which allows the child to have free thought without any
undesirable consequences, which is an escape from everyday reality, the
importance of this is outlined in the clinical environment as children are hit
with reality hard during their stay in hospital. Play enables a child to learn
as they will be absorbing and processing new information about how the world works
and social norms, the brain processes this new information which becomes part
of the child’s knowledge base, leading to the child creating their own opinions
and views. This conveys that play leads to a child developing their own idea of
oneself and shapes the personality and beliefs of a child (Nahps.org.uk.
(2017)). The importance of play is highlighted in The Un Convention on the
Rights of the child (UNCRC) which was created in 1889, Article 31 (leisure,
play and culture) states that play is a basic human right that every child is
entitled to: ‘Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide
range of cultural and artistic activities.’ As a child nurse, it is important
to work with the child and their family to ensure this right is protected and
used during the child’s time at hospital. In doing this the children’s nurse
will be upholding the Nursing and Midwifery Councils (NMC) Code of Conduct, 1.5
of the code states that every nurse must ‘Respect and uphold people’s human
rights.’ It’s imperative that the children’s nurse takes in to account this
basic right as it ensures all patients in their care will be being treated
fairly, equally and with dignity. The nurse will do this with the intension to contribute
to the child’s development and understanding, which will contribute to decreasing
the child’s anxieties.

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Play is essential during hospitalisation, as empathise above
play can be an escape from everyday reality, which during the child’s time in hospital
is likely to be very stressful, due to the child’s usual routines being
disrupted, they will be separated from their home environment and family and
will be with unfamiliar professionals for periods of time. Play helps the child
to escape from this stress and allows them to continue one aspect of their regular
life, this will develop it to them exploring and creating a new world within they
can master and conquer their fears (Ginsburg, KR. (2007)). In a clinical
setting or when working with sick children play can be used to fulfil a
purpose, this is often referred to as Therapeutic play. Therapeutic play is an
intervention used to help children develop coping mechanisms when face with overwhelming
stress, in hospital this type of play focuses on medical procedures, reducing anxiety
and stress as well as involving parents and siblings in the care and
development of the child (Kelsey, J. and
McEwing, G. (2008)). An example of therapeutic play is distraction from the procedure
or pain.

Negatives
of play in hospital-

Family
centred care (FFC) is an important factor that needs to be taken in to account
when caring for children and their families. As a children’s nurse, it’s a
vital role that must me acknowledged as all families are diverse and have
various social, cultural, economic and spiritual beliefs and values, which can
have a profound impact on the lifestyle of the family and the healthcare they
wish for their child to receive. Child nurses should work with and alongside
the family of the unwell child to incorporate the family’s unique practises
into the child’s healthcare if it is at the best interest of the child.

Overall, there is no
doubt that play is an essential part of a child’s time in hospital, despite the
difficulties it sometimes causes in the setting. In order for a child nurse to successfully
support the child and their family throughout their journey through hospital it’s
imperative that the rights of the child is taken in to account, collaborative working
and family centred care is vital in this process as well. If all these factors
are successfully used when caring for the unwell or sick child the care they
will receive would be of high level and will allow the child to develop, learn
and be stress-free. This would lead to the child’s overall experience and view on
hospitals, nurses and hospital procedures to be positive

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