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How to become a health play assistant

To become a health play assistant you'll need an HNC in Childhood Practice or an SVQ in Playwork. You’ll also need experience of working with young people or children.  

What is a health play assistant?

Health play assistants supervise age-appropriate play activities for children in hospitals to reduce stress and anxiety. They also help with the everyday running of hospital play facilities.

Health play assistant interacting with child

Starting your career as a health play assistant

Choosing subjects at school

School subjects that could lead to a career as a health play assistant include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Childcare and development

Speak to your guidance teacher or careers adviser about subjects offered at your school.

Workplacements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

Education and training pathway

To become a health play assistant, you’ll  need one of the following qualifications:

  • HNC in Childhood Practice at SCQF level 7
  • SVQ in Playwork at SCQF level 6
  • National Certificate in Childhood Practice at SCQF level 6
  • NCFE CACHE Level 3 Applied General Certificate for Early Years, Childcare and Education, equivalent to SCQF level 6.

You’ll also need experience working in a team caring for children and young people, preferably in a hospital setting. 

Course search

Search for college courses on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

As a health play assistant, you’ll organise and supervise therapeutic play and recreational activities in a child-focused environment. You’ll also support families and carers to make sure appropriate information is shared and individual patient needs are met.

On the ward, you’ll provide professional advice on play activities to the multidisciplinary team, including nurses, consultants, and physiotherapists.

Typical tasks for a health play assistant include:

  • Plan activities for the playroom and individual children according to their needs.
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic play using reflective practice.
  • Provide play-based observations to influence and support patient assessments.
  • Supervise hospital volunteers assisting with play activities.
  • Coordinate and participate in specific play workshops and events for volunteer staff, patients, and their families.
  • Respect patients’ and families' individuality, values, and cultural and religious diversity.
  • Document patient interaction following confidentiality protocols and share information with senior colleagues in times of concern.
  • Comply with all defined policies, procedures, standards, and protocols.
  • Review and reflect on your practice through effective clinical supervision.

As a health play assistant you'll need these skills:

  • communicating
  • problem-solving
  • caring
  • team working
  • empathy
  • resilience
  • creativity

You could work with:

  • health play specialists
  • health play coordinators
  • occupational therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • nurses
  • ward managers
  • volunteers

You could work in a hospital ward or outpatient clinic.

Learning and development

You’ll be encouraged to develop your career in the NHS. As well as learning specific to your role, you'll need to complete mandatory training, including:

  • health and safety
  • occupational health
  • fire safety
  • counter-fraud
  • moving and handling
  • safe information handling

Your NHS employer will confirm their mandatory training requirements during your induction.

You must also be proactive in updating your knowledge and understanding of current research and best practice in:

  • hospital play
  • supportive care for children with special needs
  • child protection

Career progression

You may have the chance to study for additional qualifications, including a foundation degree in Health Play Specialism. Earning new qualifications will help you when applying for more senior roles, such as:

  • health play specialist
  • senior health play specialist

Explore our careers for more ideas.

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