A higher education student who wrote a book about COVID-19 to help children in hospital understand the pandemic is returning to the Midlands following a promotion to work in a Nottingham hospital and complete her studies.

Jamie-Lee Phillipson, from Ashby-de-la-Zouch, had to overcome the unexpected challenges of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as part of her role as a healthcare play specialist in one of London’s major trauma centres at St Mary’s Hospital in London.

Jamie-Lee started her job during the second year of her Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism while continuing to commute to NWSLC’s Nuneaton Campus each week to complete her studies. She has since decided to return to the college to top up her qualification to a BA Hons in Integrated Services for Children and Young People, commuting to evening classes at the college’s Nuneaton Campus every week again while she continues to work full time in the NHS. Jamie-Lee will soon return the Midlands permanently having been appointed to a Band 6 management role at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Jamie-Lee said, “When Covid hit the NHS last year, all the playrooms were closed at St Mary’s. We were faced with the challenge of bringing play to children and young people in our care without the usual facilities. We had to keep patients socially distanced from each other, working at their bedsides, and we started using a lot of PPE which some of the children found difficult to deal with at first.

“Our local children’s charities including Spread a Smile and Rays of Sunshine were amazing and provided us with lots of single-use activities and games, so the patients didn’t miss out on having toys and games to play with.

“To try and explain what was happening to the children, and to reassure them, my colleague Mikki and I wrote a book and made a video called ‘The Day the Toys Went Away’ which went viral on social media and was featured on BBC Radio London. It helped to explain why the children couldn’t use the playroom during the pandemic and gave them ideas for using their imagination to have fun instead.

“We didn’t want our patients, especially those who had to remain in hospital long-term, to miss out of the therapeutic benefits of play. We work on a general paediatric ward, so patients are experiencing a range of issues from accidents and neglect to mental ill-health.

“We were concerned that wearing PPE and setting up cubicles to keep them isolated might be a scary experience. Some of our activities were conducted over Zoom which was sometimes the only contact we could have with patients. Our work in keeping them occupied and entertained was also a lifeline for their parents who enjoyed seeing their children having fun and forgetting about the reasons why they were in hospital.”