Having to go to hospital isn’t exactly most folks’ idea of a good time.
And when you’re young, it can be downright scary.
Strangers in overalls asking questions, doctors poking and prodding, mums and dads in tears – not to mention some scary looking medical equipment – can put children on edge.
However, Ninewells has a special group of people who have spent the last three decades doing all they can to help local kids stay happy in hospital.
The team of play specialists is a welcome sight for all young guests at the hospital, whether they’re just in for the day or staying for longer.
Even though members of the team have to wear the light blue tunic identifying them as NHS staff, they’re easily spotted by their lilac, insect-patterned pinafores – and the only thing they prescribe is fun.
Una Paton, a play specialist in the team, says that there’s more to their work than just play.
She said: “It’s a national campaign but we’ve been doing a lot of work at Ninewells to make it a nice, relaxed atmosphere as well as raising awareness about what we do.
“A lot of people don’t realise that we actually do have quite a large play room here that’s not unlike a nursery.
“Our main role is to reduce the children’s anxiety and provide support as well as creating a lot of fun.
“It’s actually good for the staff as well.
“Although it is challenging putting everything together and getting people in, it’s a great team-building exercise for us at the same time.
“We try to offer as many things as we possibly can for children.
“We’ve had so much going on in the last week.”
Doctors, nurses, anaesthetic staff and workers from across the NHS Tayside network were invited to see the work of the play staff first-hand as part of the event.
The project is run by the National Association of Healthcare Play Specialists (NAHPS) with hospitals throughout the UK to promote the therapeutic benefits of play.
This year’s theme at Ninewells was Everyday Heroes, centred around the 70th anniversary of the NHS, and kids were treated to visits from clown doctors and hip-hop dance group Flyin’ Jalapenos, as well as taking part in prize word searches.
Una said that it’s not just children who benefit from the play experience.
She added: “People think we are just play ladies but we all have a specific job to do. This gives the children a bit of normality and there’s always a lot going on.
“You can see the difference it makes for the children and how it can take their minds off what is going on and what they’re there for. Children going into hospital affects the whole family and if they’re able to see the child relaxed and able to play then that can help them too.
“Some people go home quite amazed that there’s a facility like this here for kids.
“Play is such an important part of a child’s day.
“They learn through play, they relax, they express themselves and that can help the nurses and doctors.
“They go home feeling a bit more positive – it’s not just all doom and gloom.”