Save the Children’s play therapy at the hospital

The hospital environment can be both frightening and difficult for children to handle. The Save the Children organisation works on making visits easier for children of all ages by offering play therapy at the hospital.

“There’s a lot of grief and misery at a hospital. In all of that, I try to bring out the fun and everything that’s good, things that can overcome the sadness,” says Linda Ehn, Save the Children’s play therapist.

Linda is employed by Save the Children but works at Åland’s Health and Medical Care, which is the central hospital on Åland. As early as the 1970s, Save the Children began to offer play therapy to children as an activity during the day. The basic idea has always been to attempt to play away the illness. In a modern hospital environment, play therapy has developed to include much more than just play.

“Hospital stays have been greatly shortened, now the work mostly has to do with working with patients who are afraid of examinations and syringes. I am more of an educator in my work and teach the children what they are going to experience,” says Linda.

A free zone for children

The play therapy is available at the Children and Youth Unit’s section of the hospital and it consists of a play pavilion, an outdoor courtyard with play equipment and a small playroom inside the ward. Even if play therapy is closely intertwined with the hospital’s activities, it is important that it differs from ordinary hospital care.

“It’s important that we don’t wear medical staff clothes, we must be a free zone for the children. Hospital clothes make the job more difficult because many children are afraid of people in medical staff clothes,” says Linda.

At the moment, there is a queue for play therapy’s more therapeutic treatments because the Covid-19 restrictions have meant that only the most acute patients have been able to get help.

“I have very long queues right now unfortunately. This is an important service that has expanded a lot in recent years, where primary care in particular has realised that play therapy can be a huge help, for example, for those who are afraid of getting vaccinated,” says Linda. 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

In the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, contracting states recognise the right of the child to play and recreation, as well as the right of the child to enjoy the best attainable health, the right to health care and rehabilitation. It is precisely these points that play therapy combines and works to improve.

“I am very happy that Save the Children has this service. The ideal would be for there to be two of us working with this, because this function shouldn’t be interrupted for anything in the world,” says Linda.

Save the Children is one of the organisations that founded Paf in 1966 and which annually receives an important amount of support from the Paf funds to run the association’s work.

18 February 2022

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