Michelle Hartnett, senior play therapist, Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice
8.30am It’s a short commute from my home in Carrickmines to the hospice in Leopardstown. I start the day by addressing email queries from families or staff, related to children I see for play therapy or external information requests in relation to our family support programmes. At Laura Lynn we provide care to children with life-limiting conditions and their families, focussing on making sure the children in our care live as full a life as possible.
9am After a quick breakfast, the multidisciplinary team sits down to discuss individual supports for children and families. Children visit us for a variety of reasons, from symptom management and short breaks, to end-of-life support. We support 140 children who attend services from around the country, from new-borns to the age of 18.
11am As a play therapist, I help devise recreational activities that appeal to children who stay with us. Today I’ve organised a treasure hunt for a child who loves secret agents and whose favourite hero is Spiderman. The child is the hero of this drama and along the way he has to deal with various ‘baddies’ who are trying to take over the hospice. He saves the day! Activities such as these are central to our focus of ‘putting life into a child’s day, not days into a child’s life’.
1pm I eat lunch in our canteen. I often bump into families and siblings, where I can have a laugh and a giggle with the siblings of visiting children.
2pm The afternoon is given over to 45-minute sessions with clients. Primarily the work is with siblings of children in our care who are dealing with issues like anxiety and anticipatory grief — a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. I hold a masters in bereavement and loss, a course run by the Irish Hospice Foundation in partnership with the RCSI, which has given me an in-depth understanding of a child’s needs at vulnerable times in their lives — pre and post bereavement — and this benefits my approach when developing play therapy sessions for each child.
5pm I head home to meet my husband James where we pick up our dog, a mal-shi named Nonsense and bring him for a walk in Dún Laoghaire. I enjoy creative arts, particularly illustration and I try to incorporate these activities into my evenings.
“I enjoy creative arts, particularly illustration”