Real life stories:
Claire Parks, Senior Play Specialist

Claire Parks 200aSince a very young age, probably 10 years old, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to work with children. 

But it wasn't until I was in my early 20s that I became aware that such a career was available in the NHS. 

When I left school, I thought the only options available to me was becoming a nanny or joining a day nursery, but I knew I wanted something a bit different.

After spending a number of years working as a nursery nurse at a large London hospital, the opportunity arose to become a play specialist here in Swindon and I instantly knew it was what I'd been waiting for. 

To a poorly child, a hospital is a scary place.

They'll usually be feeling low, with little or no energy and often unaware of their condition and the treatment they're receiving.

It's my job, through play, to make them feel more like children again, help them to understand but sometimes distract them from what's going on.

I'll often accompany the children to theatres and continue our play right up to the moment they're asleep.

Being there means I can make sure they're happy during what's usually a stressful time not just for them, but also their parents.

Claire Parks 200bHaving a child in hospital will always be extremely upsetting for mums and dads and they'll often want to be by their child's side throughout their entire stay.

But, as a play specialist, I can offer them short periods of respite, to get some fresh air or even just a cup of tea, by staying with their little one and keeping them entertained until they return.

It may sound clichéd but working in the Children's Unit at the Great Western Hospital is an incredibly rewarding job.

To see families leave hospital with smiles on their faces and for them to make an effort of saying thank you before going home is a lovely feeling and one that makes my job completely worthwhile.  

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