The experience of novice hospital play specialists in their early months of employment
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This study explores the day-to-day lived experience of eight novice hospital play specialists in New Zealand, during the early months following their appointment. Hospital play specialists come from a background in early childhood teaching and work as members of paediatric healthcare teams to support development and coping in hospitalised children and young people. Participants' stories were gathered in face-to-face interviews and were then analysed using an interpretive approach informed by Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology. Throughout the reflective process of the study, I have sought to show the vividness of the participants’ unique experiences whilst revealing the deeper understandings that lie below. This study shows that experiences as a novice matter to the subsequent development of professional identity as a hospital play specialist. The participants' early impressions of tile world of a hospital are shown in the findings to be those of strangers arriving in a foreign country, struggling to survive and to achieve a sense of belonging. Despite initially feeling lost and vulnerable, they are revealed as resourcefU1 in coping with change, and resilient in acquiring new skills, finding support, building relationships, and adapting their practice. Inclusion within healthcare teams, and recognition of their knowledge and skills by the participants and by their healthcare colleagues, contribute to participants' successful transitions from novice to competent practitioners. There are implications in this study for team leaders, managers and hospital play specialists regarding recruitment and support, such as ensuring that those employed show the flexibility needed for this role and are the11 provided with suitable early information and induction programmes Alongside this is the need for a focus on professional development and improved processes of communication, and inclusion of new staff members within the healthcare team.