Charlotte Blackett is a play worker on Acorn Children's Unit at Whipps Cross Hospital. She provides therapeutic play and distraction for the children and young people coming through the service, as well as emotional support to families whose children are in hospital.
Charlotte grew up in the area of Whipps Cross Hospital and began her career after school as a nursery nurse. She realised she wanted to work in a hospital setting and has done so at Whipps for 18 years. She said it feels like she’s “meant to be in the role.”
Charlotte explained that every day is an achievement. Whether she manages to encourage a child to eat who hasn’t wanted to or help a frightened child come into the play room and smile and interact, all of these are achievements to her. She helps to give parents the time to take on board what’s happening and she meets so many families, some going through traumatic situations such as their child being diagnosed with cancer, and every day she feels as though she makes a difference to them.
A proud moment for Charlotte was when she was the runner up for an award that a child’s family nominated her for. “I was proud that I’d made such a difference to their care. I enjoy meeting so many inspiring families across the board from different ways of life. It’s a great place to be. Even if I’m just making a parent a cup of tea to help them feel better, it’s the small things that make a difference.”
Seeing the children’s faces and making their time in hospital one that will impact in a positive way is something that motivates Charlotte. If children can relate something to their nursery or their home life it can make the ward seem much less scary. Families often feel that they can open up to Charlotte in a safe environment and she regularly provides support to them, as well as the children on the ward. “As a mum myself, I straight away have something in common with the women coming in. The mothers are exhausted, emotional and they sometimes just want to talk – and I can definitely talk! I realise it’s hard being a mum and that life doesn’t stop when their child is in hospital. They still have bills to pay and other children to take care of. It’s a long time for life outside of the hospital to stop and I will always help with that anyway that I can. I feel like that’s why I’m here. “
“For the future of young people, I would just like for everyone to get along. In London especially, knife crime and violence amongst young people is terrible. We see young people who are in gangs and involved in crime. Boys aren’t allowed to show weakness anymore which invokes a culture of toxic masculinity, but when they come to hospital they are vulnerable and they don’t feel as though they have to put on a front. This is when we have a real chance to connect with them and steer them on the right path. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that any good person would want for people to get along.”