Mak­ing teens feel at home

He­len O’Cal­laghan re­ports on how play ther­apy helps pa­tients

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

‘YOU just want to go in and hang with one of your friends and feel like you’re at home.” This is how one pa­tient de­scribed the teen room on St John’s Hae­ma­tol­ogy On­col­ogy Ward at Our Lady’s Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Crum­lin (OLCHC).

St John’s Ward sees 210330 pa­tients an­nu­ally, about 40% of them teenagers. Katie McManus is a play spe­cial­ist with teens and ado­les­cents (12 to 18 years) on the ward. She says she gen­er­ally needs to do ice-breaker ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore young pa­tients get to be­ing happy to hang out to­gether.

“Hands-on group ac­tiv­i­ties are best for get­ting them into the teen room — video games, bak­ing and pizza par­ties, crafts and we have Net­flix on of­fer too.”

OLCHC direc­tor of nurs­ing Tracey Wall says play and dis­trac­tion is a vi­tal re­source for hos­pi­tals treat­ing chil­dren. “It isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ — it’s an es­sen­tial ser­vice for main­tain­ing well­be­ing and nor­mal, healthy de­vel­op­ment of a child. [It’s also] a cop­ing strat­egy be­fore and dur­ing treat­ment.”

An im­por­tant as­pect of Katie’s role is to pre­pare chil­dren for med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion — one of the com­mon­est is fit­ting of na­so­gas­tric (NG) tube to bring food/medicine straight to the stom­ach.

“I show them an NG tube so they can touch, feel and see it won’t be hard or stiff in the back of their throat. I ex­plain the good side of it: pa­tients can be nau­seous with lit­tle ap­petite and par­ents of­ten nag them to eat. This way food goes straight to the stom­ach. I ex­plain this builds strength and of­ten fa­cil­i­tates them get home quicker. And it’s great for get­ting medicine down if it doesn’t taste good.”

Katie also shows a video of NG tubes be­ing in­serted, so pa­tients know what to ex­pect. “They see it’s very quick and easy when the pa­tient stays re­laxed. We dis­cuss things they can do to make the pro­ce­dure eas­ier — like suck­ing a straw/lol­lipop be­cause swal­low­ing helps ease the tube down. I in­vite ques­tions. We dis­cuss what they’d like in the room while it’s be­ing done, eg, calm­ing mu­sic, and who they’d like to be there. They of­ten ask for stress balls or just to squeeze their mum/dad’s hand.”

Un­der­stand­ably, many pa­tients feel high anx­i­ety and Katie helps them cope. “They of­ten feel they have to put on a brave face for par­ents. I re­mind them there’s no right or wrong way through this. I en­cour­age them to ask ques­tions, chat, get out of their rooms and par­tic­i­pate in all the nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties we have to keep them go­ing.”

GAMES MASTER: Katie McManus, play ther­a­pist, does var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties to break the ice.

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