Connecting with patient experience: Helium Arts workshop with UCD Nursing Students

In April 2017, Helium Arts delivered a workshop for Third Year Nursing Students participating in the Arts and Health Elective Module at UCD coordinated by artist Emma Finucane. Anna McCarthy, Helium’s Development Co-ordinator, introduced the workshop with an overview of Helium’s work and objectives. Siobhán Clancy, currently Helium Artist in Residence at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in collaboration with Rachel Tynan, spoke about her motivations for working in this area and the ways she has been inspired by the nurses she works alongside.

The art of nursing is practiced through the medium of touch‘ – Patricia Chesser-Smyth, Nurse Lecturer at WIT, November 2016

In an environment where physical touch is constrained by necessary cautions against cross infection, the artist discussed the use of artistic expression as a means to connect with patient experience and communicate care, empathy, interest and support as both nursing and art practitioners. With the nurses, she discussed the role of art and creative media in tackling preconceptions and developing nuanced representations of circumstance and self.

Profile card created on the workshop

The nurses were invited to participate in the production of a set of profile cards, inspired by ‘Top Trump’ collectibles found in a typical toy box. They were asked to consider myths that are prevalent about nurses, both positive and negative. Then they were given the opportunity to create cards relevant to nurses or other hospital staff that replaced these myths with more fair representations of the skills, interests and values that they felt important to communicate.

Profile card created on the workshop

At the end of the workshop, the students suggested that the activity be conducted in hospitals to give nursing and other staff an opportunity to represent themselves and offer a resource for patients who are getting to know them.

The artist concluded by sharing some ideas on the importance of a community approach to health that tackles structural inequalities.

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Learn more about Fireflies, Helium’s artist in residency project at Temple Street Hospital here.