Working hard to play hard during COVID-19
While the hallways at Holland Bloorview have been quieter than usual, amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19 many staff are still working like busy bees to fill the gaps in services created by social distancing.
In particular, staff on both the out- and inpatient therapeutic recreation (TR), early childhood education teams, and off-site nursery school staff have been redeployed in order to support the hospital’s many inpatients who would normally be in school during the day or be allowed weekend passes to go home.
And for Irene, the operations manager for the inpatient team, it’s been a positive experience welcoming the “new” staff during a stressful time.
“Having all clients on site seven days a week meant that there weren’t enough staff or programs. This meant we had to have more group activities to ensure that the kids had things to do,” she says. “So, the team leads for the outpatient team and the inpatient team worked together to match up staff with buddies in areas that the redeployed staff felt confident in.”
“The entire Therapeutic Recreation team and others including ECEs and Music and Art staff have come together to support the inpatients as we increased programming due to the cancellation of school,” adds Robyn, the hospital’s Team Leader for Rehab & CCC and Respite Services.
“Our staff are very well trained in infection control practices including disinfecting, physical distancing and structuring safe social environments in order to combat loneliness and feelings of isolation while staying at the hospital.”
Currently, the redeployed staff are spread out across three inpatient units and also in the therapeutic playroom. From helping run activities to revising routines, together they’re working diligently to combat kids’ boredom and feelings of isolation by providing and creating safe, fun, and crucial programs and activities for more than 50 inpatients.
“The collaboration between staff has been amazing,” says Irene.
“Together we have created an environment where clients can participate in therapeutic recreation and playroom programming without having to worry about their personal safety and wellness.”
Previous Role: Site Facilitator at one of the hospital’s off-site nursery schools
Redeployed Role: Working in the Therapeutic Playroom
What’s been the overall experience of being redeployed?
It has been such a pleasure getting to know the inpatients and families at the hospital through being re-deployed. Understanding how important play is to a child’s development and rehabilitation, I know that we are providing an invaluable and necessary service. I am honoured to be able to contribute to this important work during a time that is undoubtedly stressful for families and children.
Before beginning, I was nervous about coming into a new job and role in the middle of a pandemic but the transition was smoother than I had anticipated thanks to the supports and plans organizationally in place. I felt safe, welcomed and supported from the outset. All members of the team have been patient, accommodating and supportive throughout. I have felt trusted and valued as a member of this growing collaborative team and I look forward to ongoing collaborations continuing beyond this pandemic.
Re-deployment has allowed me the opportunity to experience and witness the hospital’s inpatient services, resources and functioning first hand. It has also given me the ability to meet and work alongside an excellent team of people, some of whom I may not have had the opportunity to work with otherwise.
It has given us all the chance to learn from each other.
Previous Role: Preschool Educator at one of Holland Bloorview's off-site nursery schools
Redeployed Role: Working in the Inpatient Therapeutic Playroom
What is the day to day like?
The day to day in the Playroom is a little bit similar to nursery school. The basic philosophy is the same: play is essential for all children and play is learning. The Nursery Schools and the Playroom are both welcoming spaces for children and their families.
The TR staff have been so welcoming, friendly and helpful. Our Early Learning and Development Team has been able to stay connected and supportive as we've been redeployed into different roles. I am grateful for the opportunity to support children and their families during this challenging time.
The overall experience has been positive despite the uncertainty and change.
Previous Role: Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (TRS) on the Transitions, Recreation, and Life Skills team, usually out in the community
Redeployed Role: TRS on the inpatient Complex Continuing Care unit
What are some changes and challenges you’ve faced being redeployed?
One of the most challenging parts of being redeployed has been adjusting to a completely new schedule, team, and job! While I’m still a TRS on the inpatient team, the role is completely different from being a TRS in the community. My new role has challenged me to re-think the typical goal-based programming I am used to and go back to focusing on the many benefits that come simply from participating in recreation – especially during times like these. Another big challenge has been learning how to best support clients at bedside with their recreation needs while getting to know them on an individual basis.
But, one of the best parts about redeployment has definitely been getting to know and work with the inpatient Therapeutic Recreation team. They have all been so lovely and supportive, and it’s been a nice change as I’m used to being on my own more while working in the community.
Lastly, the kids have been awesome and can always put a smile on my face no matter what’s going on in the world!