Supporting healthcare professionals non-verbal communication through arts based education.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, communication between patients and healthcare professionals has changed. Doctors, nurses and medical students are facing new challenges: adapting to the introduction of widespread use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), video-call consultations, social distancing and limited physical touch. Healthcare professionals have described the impact of wearing PPE as isolating, exhausting and impeding communication, not to mention the huge toll on their mental health. There is an urgent need for research in this area.

The multidisciplinary research team will work with performers to develop and deliver a programme of training and support for frontline NHS staff required to wear personal protective equipment for long periods of time while delivering care, during this unprecedented crisis.

The study will also conduct interviews to generate evidence concerning challenges facing healthcare professionals and the efficacy of arts-based approaches in supporting them during the pandemic. The methodologies developed can be scaled up, and combined with learning resources and a framework for best practice that can be widely shared across the UK.

Through arts intervention, the project aims to better equip healthcare workers to manage both physical discomfort and stress, improving their self-care. Performers will also train them to use more compassionate and clearer verbal and non-verbal communication. This has shown to be essential to good patient care, as well as part of an efficient and cost-effective healthcare system. Art forms include dance, puppetry and forum theatre.

 “This project, built on near 20 years of my work with Performing Medicine, will harness ideas and techniques employed by artists, actors, choreographers, voice coaches to develop courses and resources to help healthcare workers meet these current challenges.” Dr. Suzy Willson – Principal Investigator

“All over the world people are coming to understand the important role that the arts must play in responding to this pandemic. The work that Suzy Willson, the Clod Ensemble and Performing Medicine do supporting frontline healthcare professionals and patients has never been more vital, and the exchange of knowledge and ideas with People’s Palace Projects will enrich Covid-19 arts-based projects that we are undertaking in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the United Kingdom.” Paul Heritage, Co-Investigator and People’s Palace Projects Arts Director.

This project should make a real difference to health professionals’ communication and well-being during Covid. It’s especially exciting to be combining insights and ideas from both medicine and the arts and humanities – it’s so often these interdisciplinary collaborations that deliver genuine innovation.” Graham Easton, Co-Investigator at Barts and QMUL.

 This is a unique, multidisciplinary partnership between arts organisations, NHS trusts and academics who have been collaborating for decades. The project will create, adapt and test new methodologies that can subsequently be scaled and disseminated online.

*Feature image- Amal Lad A musical approach to medicine 2011

Research team:

PI: Dr Suzy Willson, Artistic Director Clod Ensemble & Performing Medicine. Professor of Arts and Health Education at Barts & The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (QMUL)

Co-PIs: Professor Paul Heritage,  Drama QMUL and People’s Palace Projects Artistic Director, Sandra Nicholson and Graham Easton (QMUL, Medical Education)

Arts sector partners:  Clod Ensemble and People’s Palace Projects

This projects is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation rapid response to Covid-19 .