Posted on January 30, 2018

A new program that helps children to understand their illness and adjust to being in hospital has been introduced at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Al Wakra Hospital. The play therapy program is the first of its kind in Qatar and uses puppets, props, and toys to help children understand their illness and express any fears they may have about treatment.

Last month Al Wakra Hospital organized a session for patients, their families, and local school children to raise awareness about how play therapy is used to help prepare children for medical procedures. The session included a presentation on the games used in the hospital as part of play therapy and participants were shown how activities such as coloring, drawing, and friendly competitions can be used to familiarize children with various medical conditions and the main organ systems of the human body, such as the respiratory and digestive systems.

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Ms. Hanan Musleh, Head Nurse for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Al Wakra Hospital, said being in hospital can be stressful for children and play therapy can help comfort them and encourage the expression of fears and concerns. She highlighted that play therapy can be used to help children understanding and cope with illness, surgery, hospitalization, and treatment.

“Al Wakra Hospital has developed a therapeutic approach that uses play therapy and simulation to help children comprehend their illness. The program was introduced in 2017 and is the first of its kind in Qatar. It is mainly used for inpatients, both long- and short-term. We have a team of 15 nurses from different sections of the hospital who volunteer their time to manufacture the toys that are used as part of the therapy. The toys are made from unused or recycled fabrics and are sterilized with assistance from our patients’ parents,” said Ms. Musleh

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The use of puppet modeling and puppet simulation in healthcare is becoming more popular as its effectiveness in both engaging and educating children is recognized. In play therapy, 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. Play therapy and simulation 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.

“The Nursing Department at Al Wakra Hospital fully supported the incorporation of play therapy. We have consulted with specialists in this area and have been provided with a list of suitable and safe toys that can be used for play therapy. We hope this program will be adopted by other hospitals,” added Ms. Musleh.

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