Our showcase features examples of collaborative initiatives across healthcare and the arts. What are the implications of projects such as these for future practice and policy? We put this question to a panel of experts in healthcare and the cultural sector. Here are their responses. Please feel free to share your own – tweet, drop us a line, make your own video to include here.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to leave us your comments.

John McMahon, Senior Manager, Policy and Research at Arts Council England, discusses the five key areas in which the arts can contribute to healthcare professional education.

Dr Kat Low, researcher/ practitioner in Arts & Health, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, talks about how the arts can support ‘pedagogies of kindness’ for healthcare workers.

Gilly Angell, National Co-ordinator, LENS Lived Experience Network, reflects on key skills, knowledge and attributes of healthcare professionals and on how the arts can enhance these by enabling a shift in awareness of self and other.
Dr Suzy Willson is Artistic Director of Clod Ensemble. In this podcast, she discusses Performing Medicine, the pioneering programme of arts-based education she created.
Dr Anne Laure Humbert, Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, Oxford Brookes Business School. The Royal College of Nursing report on Gender and Nursing as a Profession critiques the gendered construction of nursing. How might arts address an entrenched issue such as this?

Dr Mark Radcliffe, Programme Subject Lead for Creative Writing, West Dean College of Art & Conservation.
Mental health nurse and author, Mark Radcliffe,  responds one of our showcase projects, Careful which was inspired by his journal article on the ‘traumatized or damaged nurse’
Professor Pam Smith MBE, Professorial Fellow, Nursing Studies, University of Edinburgh.
Pam Smith’s Emotional Labour in Nursing is a seminal publication in nursing research. Here she responds to Careful, one of our showcase performances, discussing the capacity of performance to reflect the emotional aspects of nursing.

We hope you will be persuaded that arts can support nurses, midwives and others to understand their patients’ experiences of illness; to communicate effectively and sensitively; to enhance trust; and to conduct respectful and dignified physical interactions. Equally, the discussions here suggest that the arts can be protective of our clinicians at a time when the pressures on the National Health Service have sharply escalated. Here, the arts can also be an escape; a catalyst to reflect on and process uncomfortable feelings; a way of strengthening bodies and minds; a place to connect with others; or a platform for critique.  If you agree, please register for updates.

7 thoughts on “Discussion

  1. A quote from Basarab Nicolescu, the quantum physicist and one of the pioneers of transdisciplinarity back in the 70s… ‘Art is the hidden third between us and reality’.

    So much joy and inspiration looking through this incredible site. It is truly wonderful to know how many people are already involved in building bridges. I had the serendipitous joy of meeting Alex at a Performing Medicine workshop four years ago, and subsequently joining the troupe in the making of Careful. I can’t describe the huge-ness of the feelings associated with all this work. It’s very moving. All these bodies moving, moving space… the formation of a movement that’s been brewing for such a long time – a movement towards looking after ourselves, and others, and the planet, in more sustainable and kinder ways.

    I feel we are taught from quite a young age that the imagination, the arts and the humanities are luxury subjects only for the privileged. In our schools they are marginalised and more and more emphasis is placed on the importance of science and technology. Humans have been talking about holistic care for years and years, in many cultures and in many ways, … we need space… time… tools…to keep developing ways to integrate physical, mental, psychological, emotional, spiritual wellbeing.

    … don’t know, but I think people who look after other people are notoriously bad at asking for what they need. I feel like there’s a real calling to artists to advocate for tools and resources to create spaces for people to decompress. And after the crisis that we’re experiencing right now – this is going to be critical. Vital. Or we won’t have any healthcare professionals left.

    I think nurses are like giant emotional container ships, and sometimes you’ve got to dock, and unload all the containers, and open them up and see what’s inside and then put them back on, and off you go, back out to sea, out to the unknown. To be with people in the unknown journey of their illness or their condition. But what do you do with all the stuff you have unpacked? And where do you unpack when there’s no space to the dock? We normally associate these kind of spaces with a therapy space – but we know that emotional labour exists in the day-to-day life of a healthcare professional – and so we need to start making space for the people inside the systems. To explore these boundaries between private, personal and public.

    I was very taken by what Dr Mark Radcliffe was saying about the importance of finding language to talk about the feelings involved in caring… I would agree with that as a student nurse it seemed like I had to learn how to feel less. To listen less and less to that voice that wanted to connect. There’s an implication at times, it’s a sign of weakness, ‘maybe you’re not cut out for it’ – if you are overwhelmed by feelings of injustice, or empathic imaginings of how others are feeling. On the face of it, you work with your hands, on your feet, with your rational head… but we know that a lot more is expected of you if you care… Empathy is not your friend if you have to look after someone in distress. It can be your worst enemy if you don’t know how to talk healthily about the feelings you pick up on, that might not be yours, they might come from the people you are looking after, who themselves are lost or confused.

    Very excited by all this and where it might all go … More please.


  2. Another lovely comment from Pam. Thank you

    “Thank you for such a wonderful event. I wanted to listen to the presentations again and again and engage with the speakers. They gave us such powerful insights and different ways to think about being in this troubled world of Covid-19 and how to build resilience and reserves not only to care for patients and families but also ourselves. The case studies show just how important the arts are for supporting nurses, midwives, students and other health workers to better understand their emotions and feelings to enable them to care compassionately and professionally both for their patients, themselves and each other.”


  3. Fab message from Kirsten Baker – any responses from the Arts World?

    “I researched student midwives and their professional socialisation to try to identify how/when the seepage from a woman-focussed approach to a “system”-centred one occurred – and it happens alarmingly quickly! As an educator I think arts need to be embedded in students’ learning from very early on in their programmes as we need to give them the imaginative space between how things are and how they could be. Art can do this.
    We also need to nurture the clinicians from whom students learn their role (social learning being possibly the most potent), engendering a sense of entitlement for them to care for themselves and each other as a vital premise for caring for childbearing women.


  4. lovely email from Matt Jennings: I would like to congratulate everyone involved in setting up the Performance for Care project. You and your team have done a great job on the website. It’s a wonderful format for sharing work in the field, and a brilliant array of speakers. And it’s extremely impressive that you put all that together in these circumstances. Truly amazing.


  5. Great email from Daniella Castillo
    “I am astonished about this work. I am firmly convinced that the arts might help to heal patients. Moreover, this can help healthcare providers visualize and recognise emotions and feelings that are until now inwardly but at the same time are universal between people who work in Health care environments.
    Congratulations on this fabulous initiative. I hope this project continuing progress, and it helps other countries to understand the vital role of the marriage between arts and health.”


  6. John, do you find that some medical and nursing staff resist the the value of arts in practice? In my experience, these staff often want to come across as knowledgeable not as “soft”. How can we change this?


    1. I’m jumping in on this interesting question, Trisha. Suzy Willson is very articulate on why medical and nursing staff might resist the arts. I’ve also heard her use the term ‘subtle skills’ rather than ‘soft skills’ – this seems really right.


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