Friday, 15 June 2012

Undercover Playworker

I know I keep harping on about being in hospital, but I didn't just sit around flicking through magazines for the time I was there. Whilst being moved from wheelchair to trolley, bed to chair, the various members of staff at healthcare system always tried to strike up the same conversation with me:

"So are you working?"
"No I'm just about to graduate"
"Oh great, what in?"
"In something called playwork"
"Huh! Sounds interesting, what's that?"

And of course, as a lot of you know, explaining what a playworker is can be difficult. But I'd talk them through it, using the various standard definitions of playwork like "it's the study of children's play and why it's important, and how to bring it back because it's disappeared" or "I spend my time playing with children and providing them the best opportunities for play".

My best one that I came up with, on the spot, (because I was caught off guard every time) was:

"It's the study of how play is the most important thing for children, how there are great benefits, how parents, teachers and doctors can help to promote play and reduce the diagnosis of things like ADHD"

The two times I said something similar to this, the reaction (especially in a healthcare environment) was almost explosive.

"ADHD doesn't really exist, it's something invented to give parents something to call "bad behaviour"" - said by a triage doctor.

"I agree. Play is the answer. Play and a good diet." - said by the community nurse.

This got me thinking. My Working Together group and I made a video to inspire conversation about how play and health go hand in hand, with the idea that we can use the videos for training. It's a formal way to go about stuff, but it promotes play! And of course, what I ended up doing for a couple of weeks was going the informal undercover route and inspiring conversation with physicians, nurses, healthcare professionals completely by accident! But it works! It gets people riled up. Gets people thinking. And makes playworkers known to the world as professionals who are working with other professionals to get a good thing going.

So being in hospital not only identified my gallstone production, prompted the removal of my gallbladder, and increased my pain killer intake, it also started a few important conversations. It's kinda made me happy. A weird and happy hoorah for hospitals, hoorah for conversations, and hoorah for being an undercover playworker! :)

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