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Making a Difference. An interview with Play Specialist Tracy Foster

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Tracy Foster

Play Therapy is an integral part of burn and scald rehabilitation for children. Here Tracy Foster, a Play Specialist from Pinderfields Hospital shares her experiences:

How long have you been a Play Specialist on the Burns Ward at Pinderfields Hospital?

I’ve been a Play Specialist for 12 years, it was actually a midwife I knew through a previous job at Surestart who recommended the job to me.

What would a typical day for you consist of?

Distracting and reassuring children is the main part of my job. Distracting them during painful dressing changes and reassuring the child and their parents. I help prep children for surgery and take them down to theatre. I am the last person they see when they go to sleep and their parents are the first they see when they wake up.

Do you ever work off-site?

Yes – quite a bit, especially with regard to reintegrating children back into “normal life” and school.  This can involve talking to their teachers so that they know what to expect when the burn injured child returns to school; then we may do a presentation to the other children (classmates), preparing them for their friend’s return to school; and then a visit when the burn injured child comes with me. We have recently had a child who was an in-patient for several months with a big burn injury. Me and his Mum have been taking him into town on short trips.

If a child from our area has initially received treatment in a different (larger) hospital, i.e. Manchester, I will help with their transition to Pinderfields. I will go to Manchester and work with their Discharge Planning Coordinator. I will take an iPad with a video of the staff and burns unit at Pinderfields so that it is familiar to them when they transfer to us. I will make sure that I’m on duty on the day they transfer to ensure that there is a familiar and friendly face waiting to welcome them. I also attend scar review clinics at Goole and Bradford Hospitals.

As well as the above if we have a child who we know will have a problem managing the pain of dressing changes once they have been discharged, I will accompany the Outreach Nurse from Pinderfields who goes to the child’s home to do the dressing change.

Tell us a bit about the Pinderfields Burns Club

The Club runs all sorts of activities for burn injured children, including camps and day activities. As well as participating in the Family Weekends run by the Children’s Burns Trust, we run several ourselves including: 0-7 years family activity weekend which include parents and siblings, 7-13 years camp – Monday to Friday which are the children only, 13-16years weekend camp and 16-18 years day event

Throughout the year we run ‘buddy’ events, if we have a child who is struggling we will find another child in their area to mentor and help them in general.  We also run ad-hoc days with the Katie Piper Foundation, pampering days etc. And the Club has a Halloween and a Christmas Party each year.

All these are open to current and ex-patients. Many of the children we see will be returning to us for treatment and surgery throughout their growing years, so we get to know them really well – and they make lasting friendships with each other.

How do you fund the events that the Burns Club runs?

Children’s Burns Trust obviously helps and supports us enormously – from sponsorship of children to attend camps in the UK and abroad, to the purchase of equipment for us. We hold a Masquerade Ball each year, and WACCAL (businesses in the Wakefield area) hold a Christmas Lunch to raise funds for us – last year they raised £17,000, and we are hopeful that it will be more this year! In addition, we will do bag-packing at local supermarkets, presentations to groups such as the Round Table, cake stalls, tombola, and both West Yorkshire & Humberside Fire & Rescue Services fundraise for us.

Have you ever taken children abroad with the club?

Several times – we have taken 3 children to the World Jamboree in South Africa, 2 girls to Angel Faces in California and 2 families to Lapland. Children’s Burns Trust helped part-fund all of those trips.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Making people smile and know that I’m making a difference!


Thank you so much for sharing with us Tracy

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