Doha, 28 July, 2019: A program introduced two years ago at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Al Wakra Hospital to help children better understand their illness and adjust to being in hospital has helped over 375 pediatric patients to date. The therapeutic play program is the first of its kind in Qatar and uses ragdolls, puppets, props, and toys to help children express fears they may have about treatment or their illness.
“For most children, spending time at the hospital is stressful. It can often be confusing, frightening, and anxiety provoking. Our therapeutic play program was designed to provide an outlet for children to express their feelings and anxieties about their illness and their hospital experience. Therapeutic play can help children better understand their illness and it can also help make the process of receiving medication or undergoing tests less stressful, as playing is an excellent distraction,” said Ms. Hanan Musleh, Head Nurse for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Al Wakra Hospital.
Introduced in 2017, the program uses toys, free play, storytelling, games, coloring, and drawing to familiarize children with various medical conditions, diagnostic tests, treatments, and hospital equipment and staff. Ms. Musleh said the program was initially introduced by the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nursing team to visually explain planned medical procedures to patients. She says therapeutic play has been effectively used by hospitals across the world to help children understand and cope with illness, surgery, hospitalization, and treatment.
“Here at Al Wakra Hospital, we have developed a therapeutic approach that uses play and simulation to help children better understand and manage their illness. Many of our pediatric inpatients, both long- and short-term, have benefited from this program. We have a team of nurses from different sections of the hospital who volunteer their time to manufacture the ragdolls that are used as part of the program. The toys are made from unused or recycled fabrics which are complaint with infection control standards,” said Ms. Musleh
Ms. Musleh says materials for the ragdolls are donated by the American Women’s Association of Qatar. She says therapeutic play can assist healing and rehabilitation and notes that medical evidence shows the approach can speed up recovery rates and decrease sensitivity to pain. She says it can also help children to build emotional resilience by empowering them, noting that it allows children to make decisions about their care.
“In therapeutic play, planned treatments are demonstrated on a puppet with the child participating in the demonstration. For example, the child will be asked to administer a needle to the puppet or replace a bandage. Therapeutic play helps the child to understand and accept the planned treatment and is also useful in alleviating fears and helping the child to verbalize questions and concerns. It is an effective way to meet the emotional needs of children who have an illness or require surgery,” noted Ms. Musleh.
Ms. Musleh added that therapeutic play helps normalize the hospital environment by allowing the child to ask questions and receive information in a more comfortable, fun environment. She says prior to introducing therapeutic play the nursing team consulted specialists in the discipline to determine the safest and most suitable toys for the program.