New early childhood space opens at Nelson Hospital

Claire Pawley, left, Craig Vercoe, Sue Fahey, Trish Casey and Jane Kinsey at the new Te Whare Manaaki at Nelson Hospital.
MARTIN DE RUYTER

Claire Pawley, left, Craig Vercoe, Sue Fahey, Trish Casey and Jane Kinsey at the new Te Whare Manaaki at Nelson Hospital.

In a new, brightly coloured space at Nelson Hospital, kids can play and become familiar with the hospital environment before they have treatment. 

An early learning centre called Te Whare Manaaki opened in the paediatric ward at Nelson Hospital two weeks ago.

There is an arts and crafts table in the middle of the room and a range of toys, including a nurses bag that contains a mini stethoscope, thermometer and big plastic band aids.

Nelson Marlborough Health service manager for women, child and youth Jane Kinsey said the health board had been working towards providing the service for the last 10 years.

Kinsey said if people had a bad experience with the health system at a young age it could often put them off seeking treatment later in life. 

"If we can make health a good experience when people are young then hopefully they can continue to access it as they get older."

It formed a partnership with Nelson Tasman Kindergartens to deliver the service, which is funded by the Ministry of Education for children up to the age of six.

Kinsey said she wasn't aware of any other health boards that had partnered with an early childhood education provider in the same way. 

It aimed to help children develop skills to get through their health journey while also keeping their education going.

They were able to spend time playing, while becoming more familiar with the hospital setting and relax before treatment. 

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"It brings benefits to the kids as it helps them transition back into early childhood once they have left the hospital."

Nelson Tasman Kindergartens senior education advisor Craig Vercoe said the service helped prepare kids to have treatment in hospital and deal with challenges they might not have faced before.

Te Whare Manaaki head teacher Sue Fahey originally worked as a nurse in Christchurch and completed postgraduate studies in paediatric intensive care before becoming an early childhood teacher. Before working at the hospital, she was the head teacher at Auckland Point Kindergarten.

She said it was amazing opportunity to be able take on a role that combined two things she was passionate about and support children, families and clinical teams. 

Fahey said often children came to hospital and were quite nervous before having treatment.

"We are hearing anecdotally from the nurses that the children are really relaxed prior to theatre," she said."They come in and see things that are familiar to their world in a really different environment."

They were also able to interact with items that would only see in a hospital environment, like having the opportunity to practice using a breathing mask. 

Fahey said it was important to build resilience in children. 

"Some of the things that they do experience are really unpleasant.

"It's about seeing children as competent and capable and able to participate in their own health."

 - Stuff

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