Nursery nurse wins Starlight Protector of Play award

Posted on in Awards

Nursery nurse Dawn McCabe with her glass trophy

A national charity dedicated to the protection of play for seriously ill children has named Middlesbrough nursery nurse Dawn McCabe as the winner of its Protector of Play award.

Dawn has been working with children for over 41 years and has scooped the Starlight Protector of Play Award for her role as a hospital-based nursery nurse, providing play and distraction services to the children on ward 22, a paediatric, surgical and trauma ward at The James Cook University Hospital.

The award was announced this week as part of National Play in Hospital Week 2021.

In a week that shines a spotlight on the importance of play in hospital, and how these specialists have been keeping play at the heart of their work during the pandemic, Dawn joins other worthy winners and runners up of Starlight’s Health Play Specialist of the Year Awards, all who have been recognised for their dedication and commitment in ensuring children in hospital have the best experience.

2021 marks the fourth year that the children’s charity has held the awards, but this year more than ever, the importance of play in hospitals has never been more vital.  In a year that has seen the way we live change drastically, hospital visits halted and PPE becoming the new normal, Dawn has ensured that the children on the ward she works on are kept distracted and entertained during difficult procedures involving blood work, surgery and cannula insertion.

Described as a bubbly, friendly asset to the team, Dawn provides distraction therapy to children of mixed ages. She escorts children and parents to the plaster room, x-rays and operating theatres, often going into the anaesthetic room with the child to keep them calm and distracted before surgery.

Dawn said: “I am just so honoured to win this award. Starlight is an amazing charity and have been so supportive during the pandemic, providing us with distraction boxes, crayons and general support for the children.

“The importance of play and distraction should not be underestimated. There are moments in my career that stay with me, and one such moment was being asked by an anaesthetist to look after the children of a man who was at the end of his life and his wife had no one to help her during the difficult time in hospital. Moments like that show how important what we do is and how it supports not just the children, but families who are often facing crisis.”

She continued: “When I work with seriously ill children on the ward, I always think about how I would like my own children to be treated. It is so important to see a smiling friendly face during times in hospital, and for children it is essential.”

Cathy Gilman, Chief Executive of Starlight said: “Our awards shine a spotlight on the incredibly important work these dedicated professionals are tirelessly doing for seriously ill children in hospital. Dawn exudes a passion for her work, and I would like to extend huge congratulations from everyone at Starlight on her well-deserved win.”