‘Playing’ – a way of addressing fears and anxieties around care and treatment

MRI Play Scanner - obtain permission

My name is Sue, I am the Play Service Team Leader, and it is my team who primarily work with the children on Level 12.

I can hear you all saying: “what a fantastic job – you get to play all day!”. Yes, it is a brilliant job, and yes we do get to play, but there is always a purpose to our play. What can look like two people playing a game of Monopoly, chatting or seeing a child making a fantastic mess with syringes and paint, is in reality the start of a conversation around being bullied in school, or educating them to the use of syringes, explaining that they are not always used to inject or give medication. We use the word ‘play’ as a way of addressing fears and anxieties that our patients have around their care and treatments.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about a brilliant addition to our service

As the #WeCare2 campaign is about the difference that Allied Health Professionals and Healthcare Scientists make, I’d like to talk about a piece of equipment that has enabled us to carry out an essential part of our service, and further strengthen our working practice with our Radiographers here in the Trust.

We have recently received a ‘Soft Play MRI Scanner’ via the Charitable Funds Committee which allows us to help illustrate to our young patients what to expect when they are due to have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. This is a brilliant piece of equipment which has added to the resources that we already have. It has the same internal dimensions as an MRI scanner, so it enables the child that we are helping to prepare an understanding of how it may feel in the scanner.

We regularly get asked to work with children that are going to have MRI scans; we previously had YouTube clips and Lego models to be able to demonstrate the process with our patients, and now we are lucky to have this fantastic soft play space to add to our collection of useful tools. By having this in the Activity Centre, a lot of our children already go in and out of it to play, using it like a tunnel and encouraging their parents to go in it. Without realising, they are interacting with the ‘machine’. Unfortunately for the parents, one end is near a wall and not designed for adults to escape! This can bring a lot of giggles especially when the parent realises they have to try and crawl out.

On a serious level, by making the experience fun and including the children’s’ parents and carers, it reduces anxieties and concerns and enables the child to process what they will be doing at a level they can relate to.

The play tunnel in use

Recently we had a six-year old who was particularly anxious about having to go into a machine. “Does this mean I am going to be cooked?”, was his question. He came to the Activity Centre and whilst we were talking to mum we had suggested that he had a look around the room and have a play. The first place he went was the tunnel. He loved climbing in it, taking various toys in with him, as I explained to him that this ‘tunnel’ was actually the size of the MRI scanner and showed him some pictures of a scanner in Mansfield. “Ah a washing machine!”, was his response. He smirked at me and proceeded to go and lie in the ‘tunnel’. I then turned the noises on, replicating what it would be like in the real MRI so he knew what else to expect.  He lay there for about five-minutes, came out, smiling, and said “that’s easy, anyone can do that!”.

I am delighted to say he completed his MRI without General Anaesthetic, but more importantly, with no stress.

It is moments like this, that I really love my job.

Sue Rodgers

Play Service Team Leader


Sue is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from our AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.


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