Providing meaningful activity on a busy ward

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Guest blog by Sam Wilson, Healthcare Support Worker




Hi I’m Sam. I’m a healthcare support worker and I work in inpatient psychiatry. In this role I work alongside talented professionals such as qualified nurses and occupational therapists to provide therapeutic sessions to our inpatients.

In this blog entry I hope to provide you with a few ideas you could use in the therapeutic sessions you create, an insight into how we tackle some of the challenges we face in inpatient therapy and give you a brief account of some of the success stories we’ve had.


Fun stuff

Providing therapeutic groups can be extremely challenging and busy events. In this whirlwind of activity there is always an opportunity to create moments that will melt away some of the chaos, create loads of laughs and help make recovery from an acute phase of illness a little easier.

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Being an inpatient can be an anxious and even scary experience, being given time to relax, a place to think and the opportunity to talk through issues and problems can have a positive impact on a patient’s wellbeing, mental state and in their recovery.

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Be creative and be inspired

Getting creative and being inspired by the patients I work with has helped me to create activity sessions that patients love to come along to again and again. Often the most simple of ideas can turn in to a session that everyone can be involved in and everyone can enjoy – including staff.

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We are fortunate on the ward that I am based to have access to a TV and Wii console. One of the greatest cures for a bad day is laughter, setting up a Wii and watching a nurse or doctor strut their stuff on a dance mat can put a smile on anyone’s face and anyone can have a go! It’s great to see staff and patients mingling together especially in an activity everyone can get in to…dancing!

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One or two sugars?

Where a Wii or even a DVD night may be an expensive option, why not give a few minutes to set up a few tables and chairs and have a chat about the latest football results, the latest news about x-factor or strictly come dancing after all who doesn’t enjoy a chat over a coffee, tea or cup of juice?

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Trusting safety

Often time restraints, a busy ward environment and lack of staff can prevent some sessions from going ahead but remember one-to-one sessions only require two people, and even a quick chat, can give a patient that opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings, which can help them to feel safe, looked after and may lift their mood.

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Green fingers and smiling faces

Ward rounds, appointments, and assessments can be stressful events for patients. There can be a big build up of tension, anxiety and worry before appointments.  Why not get the gardening tools out and discuss any issues over the daffodils and pansies?

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In my experience, male patient’s especially love being able to get their green fingers in to the latest planting project. Where an inpatient ward may not have a garden area big enough for large scale gardening projects, charities such as Thrive can provide advice and guidance about projects such as window boxes and herb growing.

Even growing a potato head with hair made of cress is a creative way of growing on a small scale and is an activity a patient can take home with them.

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Talking it through

We are fortunate to have access to a clinical psychologist who helps us run therapy groups and individual sessions. ‘Recovery groups’, ‘independent living’ and ‘anxiety reduction and coping sessions’ can be extremely beneficial to inpatients. They can provide a safe environment for issues to be discussed, problems faced during the week to be faced and for patients to learn and gain skills they can use in their recovery. At times however these types of professionals aren’t available, there is no need to be disheartened or deterred from putting on an informal therapeutic session or activity. The rewards for patients are boredom levels are reduced, new strategies and invaluable skills in stress reduction and symptom coping skills can be developed and the most important they can have fun!

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Hopefully this blog entry has given you some inspiration and provided a few ideas of your own. Good luck with your project and remember even a spare 15 minutes is enough for a small session!

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