What is the work like?

Play is accepted as vital to healthy growth and development and a natural part of childhood which enables children to explore and make sense of the world they live in. For children and young people who undergo medical and surgical procedures, access to play carries greater significance.

Health play specialists use play as a therapeutic tool for children and young people who are in-patients or out-patients in hospitals, hospices and other community settings.

Play in hospitals has been developing since the mid 1960’s with no specialist training available for the staff employed in the role. Today, qualified and registered play staff hold the professional title of Health Play Specialist (HPS).

Play has a special function in the healthcare environment, however play specialists are neither play therapists or play leaders

Play specialists work with children of all ages and conditions and their work involves:

  • organising daily play services in the playroom or at the bedside
  • providing play to achieve developmental goals
  • helping children deal with fear and anxiety
  • using play to prepare children for hospital procedures such as injections or operations
  • helping children cope with pain
  • helping children regain skills lost through the effects of illness or hospitalisation
  • supporting families including siblings
  • contributing to clinical judgements through documentation and through their observations
  • advising parents, carers and staff on appropriate play for sick and injured children

They are part of a multi disciplinary team including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians, specialist nurses, teachers, doctors and nurses.

Hours and environment

Working hours vary and health play specialists may be full or part-time. Some services are delivered during weekends and bank holidays.

Health play specialists may work in all departments were children are receiving treatment

Skills and personal qualities

A health play specialist should have:

  • patience, empathy, tact and sensitivity
  • a warm and caring personality
  • the ability to communicate with children
  • the ability to motivate children who are shy or unhappy
  • energy, enthusiasm and a sense of fun
  • some medical knowledge for understanding the effects of medical conditions and for answering children’s questions
  • the resourcefulness to adapt activities to meet individual needs and abilities
  • organisational skills
  • the ability to cope emotionally with difficult situations.

Further information may be found on the website of the Professional Association NAHPS www.nahps.org.uk


Registered Play Specialist (Health)

Entry into the Profession

The Foundation Degree programme in Healthcare Play Specialism was revalidated in 2016 and is delivered in a number of colleges.

Minimum Entry Requirements

  • A professional childcare qualification at level 3 or above
  • 2 years post qualifying experience working in a childcare setting
  • Key skills level 2 or equivalent in literacy and numeracy
  • ‘Employed’ in a health care setting at the time of undertaking the course – this may be paid or voluntary, minimum of 200 hours per year.

This is an integrated academic /workplace based course. The student will be required to have an identified experienced and qualified HPSET Registered Health Play Specialist to commit to being their Mentor / Supervisor in the workplace. Delivery of the academic content of the programme will be by a variety of means including attendance at college on a part-time basis.

Candidates must successfully complete both the practical and academic requirements of the 2 year long programme of study in order to gain Registration with The Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust (HPSET) and a licence to practice.

Registrants are given a unique registration number.

Application for a place on the course or for further details on recruitment, selection, programme content/delivery, fees etc. should be made direct to the college.

Cardiff and Vale College

North Warwickshire and Hinckley College


jacquie.mcpartlan@ucleeds.ac.uk and michelle.crosbie@ucleeds.ac.uk
Leeds City College

Solent University


A Typical Play Specialist