Play Service Coordinator at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust 

Susan Faulkner has worked at Northampton General Hospital for over thirty years. Her career started in maternity services, where she used her nursery nursing skills to support new parents. Sue then moved to children’s wards, working as a nursery nurse before qualifying as a health play specialist. Sue has managed the Play Team for much of her time at Northampton General Hospital, overseeing a vital service that aims to lessen the stress of hospital admissions for children and their families.

Early on Susan recognised that our youngest and most vulnerable patients needed an increased level of support from play specialists and play assistants. Sue worked tirelessly to build the service from a team of five working Monday to Friday, to a team of eleven working 365 days a year! Sue has fought tirelessly to ensure that the importance of play in the hospital is recognised and accommodated within the ward environment. She educates the wider Medical Team about the role of the play specialists through training sessions, using her knowledge and experience to passionately advocate for play and play specialist support.

As a line manager Sue is empathetic and incredibly supportive of us and staff feel comfortable going to her for clinical supervision, knowing that she will listen and offer guidance where appropriate. Though classed as non-clinical, the play team work very closely with the medical members of staff, which means they are often involved in end of life care. Sue is mindful to ensure that the emotional well-being of her team is considered, especially when a member of the team has been involved with providing play and support to a dying child. It is an understandably emotive time and Sue makes sure that we can take a moment to reflect.

The recurring joke is that Sue is a 'work Mum', as she will do anything to make sure her team are OK, from bringing in biscuits to attending an emergency pregnancy scan with a member of the team. Sue can walk the fine line between being a manager and being a friend. She has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge over her career and is an invaluable asset to the team and Northampton General Hospital.

Sue Faulkner is the very heart of the play team and play specialists are a very small profession within the NHS. Unless you work in paediatrics, the chances are that you only have a vague idea of what a play specialist does. Perhaps that is the very definition of an 'Unsung Hero': someone working quietly in the background for little or no recognition, but still giving their all because they know it matters.

“I was shocked and delighted to win the award. I was fortunate to have some of my team at the awards to celebrate with me, which made the evening very special. I will always remember this as a highlight in my career” – Sue Faulkner.