Improving communication in healthcare through the arts
Published: 16 Feb 2015
Olwen Minford is an end of life care facilitator and psychotherapist who currently works in London. She has recently completed an eight-week Travel Fellowship to North America and Australia, enabling her to research improving communication training and compassionate care using arts-based methods.
During her travels Olwen met with clinicians, academics, art educators, artists and therapists who are leading on innovative evidence based education programmes that enhance observation skills, facilitate the development of empathy and improve compassionate care.
At Yale Center for British Art she was invited to join a group of medical students in a visual arts training session. She said, "It was amazing to witness how training medical students in an art gallery takes them out of their comfort zone and how art opens up the possibility of listening. It would be wonderful to see this implemented widely in UK healthcare education."
Olwen visited hospital Arts in Medicine programmes in the USA and Australia, and witnessed first-hand the profound impact on communication when art, music, dance, writing, poetry, are incorporated into healthcare systems. Accompanying a musician on call during his rounds on the oncology ward was a particular highlight. Olwen took part in many activities including dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s disease, art sessions in the dialysis unit for children and adults, and a creative writing group for people affected by cancer.
Following her Fellowship, Olwen has been asked to contribute to the undergraduate medical programme at Kings College London. She is liaising with professionals at St George's University, Royal College of Nursing, and The National Council of Palliative Care, to consider future steps.
Olwen continues to run workshops on Dismantling the taboo around death, and gives conference presentations on the subject of applying the arts in end of life care education. She also acts as a resource person to staff who wish to introduce the arts into healthcare.