What's it like being a play worker for GOSH’s Feeding Disorders team?

Karen Taylor is a play worker for GOSH’s Feeding Disorders team, which is part of the National Feeding and Eating Disorders Service (FEDS) and sits within the Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

FEDS offers a specialist assessment and treatment service for children and young people with a range of feeding and eating difficulties, as well as their families.

We met her in the beautiful activity room on Panda Day Care to learn a bit more about the job and hear about one patient’s percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding tube removal party.

“In the corridor we have a ‘staff board’ that the patients have helped us make, where we’re asked to provide a picture of ourselves accompanied by a description of what we do," says Karen. "For mine, I say I have the best job in the world.

"Being a play worker isn’t all about playing – it's also a lot to do with the treatment plan for the patients. I’m very much involved in the assessment process from when they first attend, and work closely with the rest of the team here to help them, the children and their families. From speech and language therapists to senior nurses to psychologists and more, it’s very much a multidisciplinary approach and we are all guided by each other. 

"Panda Day Care doesn’t see lots of children and young people at once – it tends to be two or three at a time. This is because we’re very much focused on the individual, rather than working with lots of patients (…but during the holidays we do welcome siblings!)." 

"The centre’s activity room is a big space. It’s lovely." 

"Before a patient arrives for an assessment, I have the opportunity to learn more about them. This gives me the chance to not only learn of any medical condition, but also to find out what interests them. I can then use this information to set up the activity room in the best possible way for each child. 

"The sensory equipment we have here works particularly well because sometimes patients just want to relax on a beanbag and have the lights on. It’s all about keeping the atmosphere calm, and making sure patients are happy and comfortable when they come in. 

"For example, one patient, Adam, always plays with the trains – if you ask him anything about a train he’d probably be able to tell you. He loves the room and is always excited to come here."

Adam and his PEG removal party 

Adam playing with his trains in the activity room
"I didn’t know Adam when he was very tiny, but I know that he was initially admitted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and was in and out of hospital a lot. He has gastro reflux and a lung condition. 

"Adam was first put on a PEG feeding tube because he couldn’t eat or swallow, and he has been on it for most of his life. Gradually, though, he was exposed to different things during therapy and, as the feed was reduced, he started to eat more. 

"Once he had reached a place where he was eating enough for his tube to come out, we had a party to mark the occasion. 

Adam opening his present at his PEG removal
"It was a very special day for both Adam and his family – it was lovely to see his happy, smiling face throughout the party. (And he still managed to play with his favourite trains!) 

"Parties like this have recently taken off on Panda Day Care. We try to celebrate when patients are being discharged – for example, we’ve already had a jacket potato party and a hot dog party! One of the members of staff makes the hats and it has worked well for the patients so far. After all, who doesn’t like a party?"

Visit our hospital website to learn more about the Feeding Disorders team.