The Benefits of Play in Healthcare Environments


In our latest whitepaper, we focus on the long-established benefits of play within healthcare settings, highlighting how providing children with information about their healthcare journey in playful ways, along with them sharing their strengths and needs, that healthcare experiences will be significantly improved for all.

Navigating the vast and often complex healthcare system can be daunting, particularly for children and their families and uncertainty is often induced by unfamiliar situations, particularly in the context of healthcare for children, their families, and caregivers. This uncertainty can permeate every stage of the healthcare journey, causing significant distress, anxiety, and negative health outcomes.

This whitepaper dives into the exploration of uncertainty in healthcare, bringing forth its profound implications for children and families. It highlights the untapped potential of playful knowledge sharing in healthcare settings, underscoring the well-documented benefits of play, and its essential role in child-centred care.

Download your copy for more information!

By reading this whitepaper, you will learn:

  • How uncertainty can lead to worse outcomes.

  • Why agency, flexibility and information are key to improving patient experience.

  • The benefits of play in healthcare.


Uncertainty in healthcare

The medical field has long acknowledged the prevalent role of uncertainty as a driver of its activities, which stimulates research, patient care, treatment, and support.

For children engaging with healthcare systems, uncertainty takes on an amplified significance. Their interactions with unfamiliar environments, devices, procedures, and individuals assuming unfamiliar roles can induce significant anxiety and distress. 

This uncertainty, particularly around familial access and medical procedures has been previously identified as a source of negative emotional responses during hospitalization (Corman, Hornick, Kritchman, Trestman, 1958; Vernon, Foley, Sipowicz, 1965; Yap, 1988).

Mishel’s Uncertainty in Illness theory (UIT) (below) underscores the profound role of uncertainty in the entire spectrum of hospitalization experiences—pre, during, and posthospitalization. According to UIT, uncertainty is defined as “the inability to ascertain the meaning of illness related events and arises in circumstances wherein decision-makers fail to assign precise values to objects or predict outcomes accurately due to a deficiency of necessary cues” (p.256).

The UIT model further explains how uncertainty, within a hospital setting, is perceived as a hazard, ultimately leading to negative mental and physical health consequences.

The influence of this perception on outcomes has been well-documented in adult medical literature (Cheng et al., 2022; Ozawa et al., 2021), as well as studies on children and adolescents (Steele, Aylward, Jensen, & Wu, 2009; Stewart, Mishel, Lynn, & Terhorst, 2010).


Read this and more in the full whitepaper!

Meet the author

Jamie Galpin is a founding member of Special Networks and a chartered Developmental Psychologist. He has spent the past 20+ years working in the fields of inclusion, psychology, innovation, participation and learning, with a focus on empowering children and young people.

Jamie’s professional background spans roles in play work, family support, lecturing, teaching, training, strategy, policy work and international consultancy. To date, Jamie’s career has seen him partner with a wide array of institutions, from charities and government bodies to global corporations. Each of these experiences has allowed him to work with people and places to design and then lead complex programs that aim to combat social disparities and inequitable design and practice, driving tangible changes in these critical areas.

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