NHS staff from across the South West will be in North Devon this week to learn new techniques for helping children cope with pain and worry in hospital.
Three one-day workshops – accredited by the Royal College of Nursing – are being staged at Barnstaple’s Park Hotel by Dr Bernie Whitaker, an Australian specialist who is flying in from Oslo.
He was invited by Bekka Hinson, a children’s community nurse with Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, when she attended one of his courses at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
The sessions will focus on a technique called guided imagery, in which children are helped to imagine themselves somewhere else – perhaps playing in the park or going on holiday.
They can then be led through the experience, being asked to describe what they see when they look around, who is there and what they are doing, for example.
When combined with relaxation techniques and controlled breathing, the aim is to take the child’s mind off what is happening to them – perhaps while they are having blood taken or are being prepared for an operation.
Most children don’t need this sort of help, but it can make a huge difference for those who are very anxious about what is happening to them. They might be in pain, as well as being away from home and with people they haven’t met before.
The technique is already being used by some of the Trust’s staff – in the Caroline Thorpe children’s ward, for example – but the aim is to train others who work with children. Places are being sponsored by the Paul Lock Memorial Fund, which supports research into paediatric care in North Devon.
Doctors, nurses and therapists from other parts of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset are also booked into the workshops.
Bekka Hinson said: “Some children can be terribly upset and worried about what’s happening to them, especially if they’re in a lot of pain. It’s wonderful to see the difference these techniques can make for them, which is why we wanted to help as many colleagues as possible learn what to do.
“It’s the first time Dr Whitaker has run his workshops in the South West, so we’re very pleased that he agreed to make North Devon the venue.”
The workshops, running from Monday to Wednesday, are being supported by:
- The Paul Lock Memorial Fund
- The North Devon District Hospital League of Friends