The play specialist enables the child to bear, cope and tolerate their time and treatment in hospital
“Parents often report that “We couldn’t get by without their input.”
“The whole frightening feeling is taken away.”
“Has significantly reduced the time taken to treat the children”

NAHPS Board Members

Penelope Hart-Spencer

Penelope is the Chair of NAHPS and graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006 with a 2:1 classification in BA (Hons) Health and Social care, with a special interest in therapeutic play for children. Following graduation, Penelope coordinated a therapeutic play project in the Primary Education sector and was funded by the Children’s Workforce Development Council to write a paper relating to the impact of therapeutic play and present her findings at national conference.

In 2008, Penelope joined the team at The Young Oncology Unit at The Christie NHS Trust as the Play Specialist and Paediatric Support Coordinator. She is responsible for ensuring paediatric oncology patients who require radiotherapy, endocrine and inpatient radioiodine treatments are well supported. During her career, Penelope has also been an Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University on the Social Change Degree programme.

Penelope is qualified and registered Health Play Specialist and also possesses a Master of Science Degree in Comtemporary Health Care (Cancer care for Teenagers and Young Adults), Post Graduate Certificate and Post Graduate Diploma in Cancer Care for Teenagers and Young Adults; all gained at Coventry University. Penelope sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) for the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and is also involved in the Northern Play Health Networking Branch. Penelope is a reviewer for CCLG (Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group) publications and also supports the work of The Brain Tumour Charity.

Penelope is a specialist in preparing children and young people for radiotherapy and imaging and presents at national and international conferences about her work. She has work published with the RCNi and she encourages all Health Play Specialists to evidence their work and publish to promote best practice within the profession.

Norma Jun-Tai

Norma is the Vice-Chair of NAHPS and has had a long and fulfilling career working with children, having first trained as a nursery nurse then as a nurse for children and adults with learning disabilities. Norma qualified as a Hospital Play Specialist in 1984 and during this time became a lecturer practitioner teaching on various early childhood studies programmes and the hospital play specialist course at Nescot College. Combining teaching with the practitioner role of play co-ordinator in a large paediatric unit has given her the privilege of training many play specialists whilst providing therapeutic play for sick children and young people.

Irene O’Donnell

Irene is the Play Services Manager at University College London Hospitals leading one of the largest play specialist teams in the UK. She has worked as a qualified play specialist for over fourteen years in several London teaching hospitals. Irene has been involved in the teaching of trainee play specialists since 2004 and regularly lectures on the Play Specialist Foundation Degree course.

Irene is an integral member of the National Executive Committee representing the profession throughout the UK and is also a Trustee on the board of the Healthcare Play Staff Examination Trust (HPSET) where she sits on the re-registration panel which re-registers Health Play Specialists. In her previous role as Chair of NAHPS, Irene worked in collaboration with other organizations such as NHS England, The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) at strategic level in order to represent the voice of children and young people. This ensured children’s/young people’s emotional and developmental needs were prioritized alongside their physical needs during their healthcare experience(s).

Irene has worked in a variety of clinical roles including oncology, PICU, paediatric A&E, haematology and bone marrow transplantation. Her area of clinical expertise lies within haematology and bone marrow transplantation supporting children and young people through treatment.

Irene strives to keep play in healthcare high on the agenda and an integral part of the child and young person’s hospital experience. Irene is responsible for planning future events for NAHPS.

Ishbel Proctor

Ishbel is Play Services Co-ordinator at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC) in Edinburgh. She qualified as a Play Specialist in 2000 from Stevensons College Edinburgh. She is the Scottish representative on the National Association of Health Play Specialist (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC), and is also on the Future Events subcommittee. Since joining NAHPS, she has organised an annual Spring Study Day for play staff from around the UK covering diverse topics. She has many years experience of working with children, young people and their families, mostly in the RHSC.

In her role of Play Services Co-ordinator Ishbel manages a team of 17 Play Specialists and Play Assistants. She maintains her clinical practice expertise by working in the Oncology/Haematology Ward one day per week as well as regularly covering all other areas in the hospital and also dealing with referrals from members of the MDT.

Jenny Oliver

Jenny started her play career as a Play Assistant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). It was during her time at GOSH that she completed her Play Specialism training at Stanmore College, qualifying in 2006. Once qualified, she moved onto to work at The Royal London Hospital primarily working in the paediatric A&E Department. While working in A&E, she developed an interest in teaching and training a wide range of professionals, promoting play throughout various ambulatory services such as MRI, imaging and day case, developing sedation programmes and striving to implement play within trauma calls as well as developing bereavement services.

In 2016 Jenny began working at University College London Hospital as the Deputy Play Services Manager, supporting the management and development of one of the largest Play Services in the UK. She hopes to bring her experience of various clinical roles to help the team to continue to strive towards excellence and excel in the delivery of play services.

Jenny endeavours to promote the value of play within healthcare and the importance of play being integral in providing high quality of care being delivered to children and young people.

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